An estimated 1,000 public sector employees took to the streets of St. George’s Wednesday in a protest march in support of their calls to the Keith Mitchell-led government to restore their constitutionally guaranteed right to pension on retirement.
The march was organised by the three main public sector unions on the island – the Public Workers Union (PWU), Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) and the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU).
It comes one day before the high court is due to hear legal arguments by lawyers representing the State and the unions on Pension Restoration.
One of the placards seen in the march reads: “Imagine 40 years of Labour Den Retirement!! Ah go home to dead or beg. Ease the Tension. Pay the Pension”.
The firebrand President of GUT, Jude Bartholomew told reporters who covered the event that the unions will not let up on this pension issue.
“We are calling on the court to restore justice – the justice that the government has failed to implement for the Working class men – the teachers, public officers, nurses, doctors, police officers, prison officers,” he said.
“We ask for social and economic justice and we ask the government of Grenada to restore our pension,” he added.
According to Bartholomew, the pension for public officers became legal in 1958 and was included in the Grenada Constitution that came into effect on the gaining of independence on February 7, 1974 under the then Labour party government of Prime Minister Sir Eric Gairy.
“It is embedded in the Constitution of Grenada,” he said, adding that “Justice must be done for the workers too.”
The GUT boss called for pension restoration “for all the hard working workers – teachers, doctors, nurses, police officers, prison officers and everybody who deserved to get a pension”.
He noted that government ministers are qualified after serving only two terms to get a pension and other benefits.
The pension issue surfaced with the collapse of the 1979-83 Grenada Revolution which had suspended the island’s Constitution which was only restored after U.S and Caribbean troops stormed the island on October 25, 1983 to restore law and order following a bloody palace coup in which Marxist Prime Minister Maurice Bishop was executed.
Bishop’s left-leaning People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) had established the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) as a replacement for the pension provisions enshrined in the constitution.
Days before the holding of the 2018 general election, the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration of Prime Minister Mitchell government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with public sector unions to provide for Pension Restoration.
However, the regime reneged on the deal and the unions took the matter to court for hearing.
THE NEW TODAY saw members of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) and The Grenada Movement (TGM) marching alongside the public officers through the streets of the capital as a show of solidarity for public officers over their plight.
A battery of police officers including members of the crack para-military Special Services Unit (SSU) were seen on the compound of the Ministerial Complex in the Botanical Gardens in order to prevent the protestors from venturing into the area where the Office of the Prime Minister is located.
A union official told THE NEW TODAY that the agreed route with the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) did not include the Botanical Gardens.
However, the protestors did reach in front of the locked gates of the Ministerial Complex and were not allowed to enter by a battery of police officers on duty.
One public officer said that this was done in order to “intimidate” the authorities on the eve of the showdown in the high court on Pension Restoration.
The protestors then moved into the nearby Tanteen Playing field where the event will conclude with speeches from the union leaders.