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Unions accuse government of violating Collective Agreement

The unions representing public officers may be forced to refer to the Dispute clause within their signed Collective Agreement with government, as of Thursday the 4% salary increases are yet to be received.

The Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT), Public Workers Union (PWU) and the Grenada Technical and Allied Workers Union (GTAWU) hosted a media conference on Thursday to express their disappointment in the action taken by the employer of the workers they represent and called for collective support. 

They are accusing the government of violating the Collective Agreement by unanimously deciding to not pay the 4% salary increases due from this month end.

GTAWU’s President General Andre Lewis expressed that “at the end of this pay cycle we are aware that the government has not yet added on the 4%….”

He added, “This is a very serious matter for us because what it speaks to is a blatant approach by the government to dictate what they want…it is OK to come to us to make a request to consider 2021 as different given all that is happening. But it is another matter when you would unilaterally decide to do you own thing.”

Lewis further stated that, “In order to not pay the 4% you must have had to have gotten our agreement and we have not given that.”

He said the signed agreement with government is to pay 4% salary increases in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

The PWU and GTAWU, who negotiates jointly, told the government that they will only consider a deferral of up to June 2021 with conditions including the regularization of public officers and return of docked salaries. Lewis said if government was willing to meet the conditions then the unions can consider a deferral of 2% from January-June 2021.

Frankson Marshall, Second Vice President of GUT, said that after this month has ended and the monies are not received, according to dispute clause the process is, they can log a complaint with the Labour Commissioner. If that proves unsuccessful, they go to mediation and if that is still unsuccessful then arbitration.

In a Jan 12 news release, government stated that as the economy is impacted by COVID-19 its revenues were reduced by 50% in 2020 and the future remains uncertain. Consequently, it asked the unions representing public officers and Staff Associations to agree to a deferral of the payment, although it cannot say when it will be able to make the payments.

The GUT from the onset said no to a deferral on the premise that government recently was able to secure US$63 million to repurchase the Grenada Electricity Services (GRENLEC). The GUT in a Jan 26 statement, said “the buy-back makes the 4% increase look like a needle in a haystack,” adding “We are not demanding anything but rather expecting what was signed and agreed upon.”

GUT dubbed this week “Ready to Receive” as it engaged in an awareness campaign on the issue. This week saw video messages and statements, Red Wednesday where teachers wore something red in support of the 4% increase and today Friday teachers and other public officers are expected to wear their union t-shirt, or something red or black in support of the struggle.

Government had explained in its release that the 4% salary increase is a permanent $13.2 million

addition to its wage bill, unlike the repurchase of the WRB shares in GRENLEC, which was a one-off expenditure on a revenue generating capital asset. “To equate the two is ill-informed and willfully misleading,” it had said.

Further, government noted that the US$63 million “used for the GRENLEC repurchase came from grants and soft loans which were intended for capital development and any deviation can jeopardise Grenada’s future eligibility for such funding.”

More so, the GUT is also expecting the docked salaries due to strike action over the reinstatement of pension for public officers, taken during September – December 2017, be paid in full by this month end.

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