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The controversial government contract workers saga

Finance Minister Gregory Bowen - an increase in the size of the public service is a threat to the economic stability of the country

When they (NDC) say they will make all the contract workers permanent that is not a promise, it is a threat because we have a pact with the international community…

That’s the contention of Finance Minister, and Deputy Political Leader of the ruling New National Party (NNP) Gregory Bowen as he added his voice to the ongoing public debate on a proposal made by the Dickon Mitchell-led newlook National Democratic Congress (NDC) to regularise disenfranchised government workers who have been employed on contract for several years.

Bowen raised the issue during a political rally at the La Sagesse Playing Field on Sunday to officially launch the candidate of Foreign Minister, Oliver Joseph, for the St. David constituency.

The Number Two man in the NNP sought to bring awareness to what he described as a “pact (formed) with the international community” to reduce the “public service to the required number of 4, 000” citing the attrition policy that was implemented under the 3-year International Monetary Fund (IMF) guided Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) undertaken by the regime of PM Mitchell to restructure the country’s billion-dollar debt, following a landslide victory at the 2013 poll.

According to Minister Bowen, the public service has been decreased from “over 8, 000 public servants” to “6, 300” presently, he argued that “if you take 3, 000 contract workers – Imanis, wardens…and you put them onto the permanent service” will also block access to much-needed funds from the international community.

“The international community will say, pay me or pay back the investors from whom we worked with you to get over a billion-dollar cut in the debt that we referred to as the haircut.

That debt will come back around our necks immediately, and it is you, and I who must pay the additional monies for this debt. So, it is not a promise, it’s a threat.”

Minister Bowen urged supporters of the NNP to return the party to power for a third consecutive time because it is the “only party to move the country forward” in these unprecedented and challenging times in history.

The senior government minister who is seeking to retain his St. George North East seat in the June 23 poll, emphasised that Grenadians should return the NNP to power to ensure that the country receives a “USD25 million (EC$67 million) loan from the World Bank, which Prime Minister Mitchell recently disclosed has already been approved.”

“There is also the Resilience Sustainability Trust, financed by the IMF, and I’ve sat in meetings with my Caribbean colleagues, and to them, it was difficult to achieve this…but because we have put measures in place (and) come through from 2013, and we have our fiscal responsibility rules, Grenada would access this, as soon as we want…and more will be coming – just stay tuned,” he told party supporters.

Bowen also used the opportunity to urge contract workers to take advantage of the EC$10 million government-funded equity financing loan fund, being facilitated through the Grenada Development Bank (GDB) where applicants can access up to EC$375, 000.00 in mortgage financing with an interest rate of 1%.

The loan facility was launched in January to provide an avenue for government contract workers, who have long called for their status to be regularised to be able to access long-term mortgage type financing, as their employment status continues to hamper their ability to do so.

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Senior Project Manager in the Department of Economic and Technical Corporation within the Ministry of Finance, Alister Bain, provided an update on the initiative at Tuesday’s post-cabinet briefing in St. George’s, where he revealed that “EC$7 million have been approved in loans” so far, to the benefit of 35 women, four (4) men, and eight (8) couples.

Officials from the Ministry of Health were also on hand to provide an update on the regularisation of the status of healthcare workers.

Acting Permanent Secretary with responsibility for Hospital Services and Community Health Services, Hannah Julien-St. Paul, sought to give assurance that “the 45 nursing assistants presently engaged through Grencase, and the eight (8) Nursing Assistants currently holding Government of Grenada contracts…will be regularised or placed on the permanent establishment effective June 2022.”

She was accompanied at Tuesday’s post-cabinet press briefing by the Chief Nursing Officer (CNO), Nester Edwards, who pointed out that while there are currently 362 nurses and 165 nursing assistants on the payroll, several vacancies exist within the health system.

The CNO explained that 91 nurses and 28 nursing assistants had their status regularised since the process began in 2017, and gave assurance that although “the process takes some time…all efforts are being made to have all nurses regularised in the soonest possible time.”

Noting that several nurses are acting in managerial positions, CNO Edwards said the ministry is “hoping to have some of the senior nursing positions filled by at least the end of the year,” citing the “need for persons at the helm to manage the patient care.”

No update was provided on plans to address the teachers’ ongoing fight for regularisation.

Teachers who have been engaged in a protest action for the last few weeks came out in their numbers last week Monday to tell the ruling regime that they are not prepared to put the “X” by the Green House of NNP if their status is not regularised as promised.

Meanwhile, during a recent public event, Congress leader, Dickon Mitchell, pointed out that there are “tonnes of vacancies in the public service” due to the government’s attrition policy, in which only three (3) out of 10 positions that exit will see the positions being filled.

The NDC leader cited the filling of vacancies as one way to regularise those workers who have been working with the Government of Grenada without job security.

Dickon Mitchell also took issue with the Mitchell regime for failing to deliver the services required by citizens in several other ministries and departments, Courthouses, as well as several Administrative services due to a lack of personnel to perform the jobs.

The NDC boss spoke of his party’s commitment to fulfill the election campaign promise of Congress to regularise the status of government contract workers, and paving the way for an enhanced standard of living, as well as ensuring security for those workers throughout their lifetime.

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