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The sell-out of workers

Left to right – GUT President Lyden Lewis, TAWU President-General Andre Lewis and former Cabinet Secretary Beryl Isaac who signed onto the Memorandum of Understanding for Pension Restoration and Reform for public workers on the eve of the 2018 election

A retired trade unionist has said that some of the current trade union leaders in Grenada have to shoulder the blame for the current sad state of affairs in their relationship with the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.

He accused some of the leaders of the public sector unions of making a fatal mistake by going into “bed” with the government days before the March 13, 2018 general election by accommodating them on the issue of Pension and Gratuity payment for civil servants.

“Some of the leaders today brought this on themselves and the workers. Remember what was said by the current TUC President when he was signing “a ghost document” for the restoration of pension”?

This is obvious reference to the decision taken by the President General of the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU), Andre Lewis and his counterpart of the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT), Lyden Lewis on the eve of Polling Day to sign onto the agreement along with the then Cabinet Secretary, Beryl Isaac.

Speculation is rife that TAWU’s Lewis, a left-leaning figure, is very weary of Prime Minister Mitchell and extremely cautious in his dealings with him but favours current Labour Minister, Peter David who is considered as “a comrade” in the camp of so-called Progressives in the country.

There are also reports that the TAWU boss is not supportive of another of the 1979-83 revolutionaries, Nazim Burke, the former Minister of Finance who was the Political Leader of the main opposition National Democratic Congress for the 2018 poll.

Both Burke and David played prominent roles in helping Congress to defeat Mitchell and NNP in the 2008 general election but differences soon surfaced between them.

David was expelled from NDC in 2012 and soon joined forces with Dr. Mitchell to help him win the 2013 general election and return to the seat of power at the Ministerial Complex in the Botanical Gardens in Tanteen.

The retired trade unionist recalled that the leadership of both TAWU and GUT were engaged in “secret talks” with the NNP regime to strike the Pension and Gratuity deal which helped Prime Minister Mitchell to another clean sweep of all 15 seats in the election for a third time.

The Public Workers Union (PWU), then headed by Rachael Roberts only signed the agreement after the election.

Within months of the poll, the Mitchell-led government reneged on the deal and the issue is currently before a judge in the high court.

Apart from Sen. Lewis and the then GUT boss, Lyden Lewis, the others who took part in the pre-election deal with the NNP regime were Chairman of the Police Welfare Association, Inspector Simon Douglas, Chairman of the Prison Welfare Association, Faithous James, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Jessmon Prince, Labour Commissioner Cyrus Griffith, and Cabinet Secretary and Leader of the Government’s Negotiating Team, Beryl Isaac.

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The retired trade unionist also commented on reports circulating in the country that the Royal Grenada Police Force(RGPF) was planning to crack down on workers who violated Covid-19 protocols during Saturday’s Labour Day march from Tempe to the National Stadium at Queen’s Park.

There are reports that only 20 persons from each union will be allowed to take part in the planned march on International Workers Day.

He said that the unions have hundreds of members and “if you (did) not take part in the march with your placards to sing about your employer you didn’t take part in May Day”.

“I am concerned about reports about the Police planning to mash up unions with more than 20 members. If this is the case we are heading down a very slippery and dangerous slope,” he told THE NEW TODAY.

“We are no longer a utopian state – we are into a one-man (dictatorship), not a government. Wake up Grenadians! This is not the first time this administration attempted to silence dissenting views in the country,” he said.

The retired trade unionist went on: “Grenadians, do you remember the time before the general elections when the “King” declared only one party would be allowed to hold a motorcade and it’s his?

THE NEW TODAY contacted RGPF for comment on reports that it was planning to take action against those unions and their members who were in violation of Covid-19 protocols for social distancing as part of the State of Emergency that the island is currently operating under.

Head of the Community Relations Department of RGPF, Superintendent of Police Vannie Curwen categorically denied that the police were planning a crackdown on workers on Labour Day.

He said: “False. We are aware of the information (20 workers per union for the march) but we did not make that decision. This was decided upon by members of the TUC themselves in a meeting with the police. It was never dictated to them by the police but we are happy for the responsible decisions of the TUC as they play their part in supporting the efforts of the Ministry of Health in the fight against Covid.

“The police (have) no intention to forcibly interfere with the celebrations on Saturday and we are confident based on discussions with the TUC that all unions will act responsibly and observe as much as possible the Covid protocols.

“We have pledged our support to work with them so that the celebrations can be successful.”