December would make it exactly one year since the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) instituted what is known as the ‘work-to-rule’ in its fight with the Keith Mitchell-led government for a 20% gratuity payment which resulted in the regime docking their pay for engaging in strike action.
In an interview with THE NEW TODAY last week Wednesday, GUT President, Lydon Lewis said the matter remains outstanding and there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel on the issue of pension and gratuity payments for teachers in Grenada.
“The matter has not been resolved. It is still outstanding (and) that the (work-to-rule) would be one year in the first instance (and) the year has not yet elapsed. When the year has passed it would be the decision of the (GUT) Executive through consultation of the membership as to what happens going forward”, he told this newspaper.
“There seems not to be any moves by government not that I know about or can confirm. I know that there has been ongoing discussions but nothing has been resolved and if you have a situation that has not been resolved you expect parties to hold their ground”, he said.
According to Lewis, “the landscape of the education system in Grenada would never be the same because the teachers have now realised that they have gone over and beyond but the political directorate is not sympathetic to their cause”.
The GUT boss pointed out that teachers would continue to demonstrate that they understand their rights are and will continue “to do what they have to do within their appointment letters”.
Lewis also referred to the ongoing union-led industrial impasse at the island’s tertiary institution, the T. A. Marryshow Community College (TAMCC) in which the demand of the workers is for government to pay an outstanding $6.1m in increments, which in some cases has been outstanding since 2013.
However, Tertiary Education Minister Pamela Moses has publicly stated that government is only responsible for 35 teachers at the college and it is the College Council and not the State that is responsible for paying increments to the workers in question.
Lewis described the minister’s statement on the issue as a “grave mistake”.
He said: “I would say probably the information was not what actually the case is.
There are two sets of workers represented by the Grenada Union of Teachers in the college. There are workers who have decided to remain with the Public Service Commission (PSC) probably to protect their pensionable benefits et cetera…but there is another group of lecturers, which is significantly the greater number of lecturers at the college directly employed by the college but are members of the Grenada Union of Teachers. So, when the minister said only 35, it was a mistake and we are hoping that she would correct it.
“Our workers there (at TAMCC) are owed monies through increments. We have somewhere in the region of 147 lecturers at the college belonging to the Grenada Union of Teachers…and we are now in the process of implementing our own industrial actions in collaboration with the Public Workers Union (PWU). So, we will see the withholding of grades, we will not do any work towards SBAs, we will not upload anything in the system and that’s the consensus of the lecturers at the college…”, he added.
According to Lewis, the TAMCC lecturers are prepared to take some form of action and this will have a direct impact on students especially with external examinations.
“…Our appeal is that the government find a way to bridge the gap and provide some form of support to the College so that the payments of increments can be done.
“It is time that the government find a path towards resolving that issue. If you go to the college you would see the extent of the time wasted and what is also significant is that the students understand the cause and they are in support of the lecturers.
“There is a slowdown of activities and lecturers are not going to classes as normal and let me say this, the performance at the college has been outstanding over the years. If you look at the results from this year’s examinations, they have improved their performance and if you are owed increments that is a legal entitlement, the government should find a way to resolve the issue.
“The college belongs to the government because the government determines what happens at the college (and) from what I know, the college cannot pay the monies that are owed by themselves unless they take a loan and so I think it’s incumbent on the government to act.
THE NEW TODAY understands that the strike action at TAMCC has already started to affect operations at the College with the most affected areas being the Administrative section, IT department, Records office, Library and some other offices.
According to an informed source, grades that were due since last week Friday were not handed in and registration for the upcoming school term scheduled for this week has also been affected.
The source said that the Chairman of the College Council, Augustine Vesprey had to withdraw what has been described as a skimpy package of $1.3 m for the year 2014 that was offered last week along with a request for the workers to forego payments for the year 2015 during a meeting between Council members and officials from both GUT and PWU.