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PWU president calls out congress government

Brian Grimes - President of the Grenada Public Workers Union (PWU)

President of the Grenada Public Workers Union (PWU), Brian Grimes is calling on the Dickon Mitchell-led Congress Government of Grenada to get serious in terms of addressing the safety and health of Public officers.

Speaking at a Press Conference Tuesday, both Grimes and the Executive Secretary of the union, Augustine “Shadow” David expressed their disappointment with the Government’s lack of urgency to deal with important issues faced by Public Workers.

Grimes told reporters that there are people out there who need a voice and that as head of PWU, he must be their voice.

“Some people for whatever reason want to turn it into political issues but the fact is the trade union has a responsibility to advocate and represent the interest of workers under all administrations and under my leadership that shall continue,” he said.

During the annual Labour Day celebrations in May, Grimes was booed by a section of the crowd during his address which was critical of some aspects of the 14-month old Congress administration.

The union leader touched on the importance of Occupational Health and Safety, highlighting that Grenada is a signatory to the ILO Convention 155 and noted that article 155 in the ILO Convention states, “Employers shall be required to ensure that so far as reasonably practicable the workplaces, machinery, equipment and processes under their control are safe and without risk to health.”

Grimes referred to the severity of the situation of many public workers particularly in the Ministerial Complex in the Botanical Gardens in Tanteen, working in unhealthy environments.

“In the ministries, we know that the air quality is extremely poor, not just the fact that there is no air condition throughout the complexes this time,” he said.

According to Grimes, both he and Executive Secretary David saw the air quality report of September 23, 2022 which indicated that at least on one floor (the Ministry of Health) the workers are operating in dangerous conditions with very poor air quality.

“This is very serious because as we speak right now many of our workers are working in an environment that they are suffering in. Three of the main complexes that house hundreds of public officers, the Ministerial Complex, the Financial Complex, the Ministry of Education, and other places, the conditions are very deplorable,” he remarked.

The PWU boss noted that because there is no proper functioning AC in the buildings and the conditions are poor, workers are leaving at 2 p.m. and some are even leaving at noon based on pre-existing conditions and as a result productivity suffers.

“So the authorities always speak to high productivity, the union is interested in that also but where we are right now where there are no answers on the many issues surrounding occupational safety and health,” he said.

The PWU President is calling on the government to be serious in terms of the safety and health of the workers and also bearing in mind how it affects productivity and service delivery to citizens.

He acknowledged the temporary measures which have been taken where some office spaces have been rented for workers but pointed out that even still the workers continue to operate in deplorable conditions which amount to wastage of government resources and funds.

Grimes revealed that the union’s concerns have been brought to the Government not just publicly but privately but nothing much has been done since their exchange of communication and was now bringing the issues to the attention of the public.

He stressed that a lot of the workers, despite being dedicated to their jobs, are experiencing serious conditions like coughs and losing their voices due to the poor working environment.

He warned that the symptoms of working in poor conditions may not always be immediate but could have long-term ramifications for workers.

“People can pick up serious occupational and health diseases as a result of working in these poor environments. So we are calling on the authorities even though we wrote, they did not answer in a way that gave any time-sensitive commitment to fixing the problem and this is the issue that we have,” he said.

The President of PWU complained about the Government’s poor communication with the union in terms of not engaging in social dialogue on the many issues faced by Public Workers.

He called on the government to be forthcoming with their response and to sit with the union and give some timelines as to when the matters raised would be fixed.

“We are not just looking at it as a union from the perspective merely of the worker alone which is important and which is our primary focus but we are looking in terms of service to the nation and citizenry,” he said.

Grimes warned that if PWU does not get a response or at least a social dialogue on a timeline to fix the issues, it will be forced to consider what action to take to protect its members.

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