For the first time in 10 years, three candidates will be vying to become president of the Public Workers Union (PWU) on Tuesday March 16, 2021.
The current president Rachael Roberts, current Vice President (VP) Arthur Pierre and former Public Relations Officer (PRO), Brian Grimes, were nominated on Tuesday to contest the presidency position.
Roberts told The Grenadian Voice that she is not “very worried” about the competition, noting that it only serves as motivation to work harder.
Speaking to the union’s achievements under her leadership, Roberts pointed to settling grievances on behalf of workers, getting better working conditions and getting many contracted workers appointed with the Public Service.
Issues she is hoping to continue championing if re-elected include the permanent appointment of workers currently on contract and re-instatement of pension to Public Officers, noting that it must take centre stage as it is time the court gives a date for the matter to be heard.
Occupational health and safety remains a challenge, the president said. Therefore, she referenced the Ministerial Complex, TAMCC and the Government Printery as areas needing attention.
Roberts said that focus will be placed on education and training for membership, noting that members need to know about the ILO convention, Labour Code and the laws of Grenada.
She also noted that Deanna Isaac from Carriacou who hopes to become the PRO, will be a fit for that position as she served in media and as a PRO for the Ministry of Carriacou and Petite Martinique Affairs.
Arthur Pierre, who serves as 2nd VP on the executive, said he believes he “can bring more to the table” as head of union. He noted that the experience garnered in the last two years, has made him more confident to vie for this position.
Pierre commented, “What I have seen is maybe a lack of leadership and strategic planning, even though you have tried, encouraged and hoped that the executive would have taken that route,” noting that coming from a teaching background, planning and strategising are extremely important.
He doesn’t believe that the executive has adequately addressed some of union’s issues due to difficulty in gathering information because a number of the arms (men, women, youth, and shop stewards) are not functional.
For Pierre, among the issues to be addressed if elected, which he said have the backing of the Labour Code and the Constitution of Grenada, are receiving the 4% salary increase which government has not honoured and the re-instatement of pension and gratuity to public officers.
The VP cites the need for the union to rebuild and re-strategise to benefit workers. He charged that there seems to be a concerted effort to bring the public service low, pointing to unestablished workers, even those who have been there for 23 years. He referenced workers being on contract for 16 years and probation for four years.
Pierre shared that those re-occurring issues were not effectively addressed because “we did not pay much attention to them,” pointing to the non-operational arms of the union needed to gather information from workers.
Brian Grimes, who challenged Roberts for the post of president in the last election, said he didn’t see the outcome as a loss but a lesson.
He stated that he has “solid” confidence in this election, saying “in 2019 I had a strong belief that I was the best candidate, in 2021 I know I am the best candidate. That confidence comes from the last two years observing the current leadership.”
Grimes, who served on the executive as the Chair of the Youth Arm from 2009-2013 and PRO from 2013-2019, said though he is not on the executive, he used social media platforms to continue to educate and advocate for workers’ rights.
“Workers have seen my activity, believe in my commitment and my consistencies,” he said.
Among the burning issues Grimes cites to be addressed include health and safety, building the morale of public officers and ending contract work which is crippling the organization and the fiscal efficacy of public officers and leaves workers open to political victimisation.
The former customs officer shared that he has an innovative way to solve the re-instatement of the pension and gratuity issue in the coming years, the details of which will be shared if elected.
Grimes shared that his campaign is going “solidly,” noting that “in 2019 it was met with resistance as his intent was questioned but now it is understood that he is authentic and means well for the movement. I have been embraced by workers, met with smiles, and the general thought from workers is that the union is fallen and change is needed.”
Former trade unionist Raymond Roberts commenting on the upcoming PWU election expressed, “I hope it would be genuine debate. I can’t remember a contest like this one, I have not seen so many candidates on the same executive, contesting each other. It doesn’t send a good message.”
Roberts, who served on the PWU executive for 25 years, said this is loved by the employer as there would not be a high level of togetherness. Nonetheless, he expressed hope that the three leading contenders, “would understand that the image out there is very hurtful for people like me.”
Commenting on the allegation of discord on the executive, President Roberts told this newsaper, “When they go low, I will go high.” She noted that on any executive there would be challenges but “as a professional you must keep your dirty linen within your organisation, you must never put it out [wash it] in the public. You become stronger by being able to sit and fix issues, have respectful discussions to resolve issues.”
The nominees to serve for 2021-2023 are:
1st VP: Finbar Thomas and Godwin Coy
2nd VP: Nugent Bernard and Berylann Clarkson
Treasurer: Paula Phillip and Keron Penny
PRO: Daisy Hazzard and Deanna Isaac
Secretary: Carvel Lett and Hermian Marryshow
Atahsa Gilbert was the only nominee for Assistant Secretary; therefore, she was duly elected by the Chief Elections Officer, Adrian Francis.