PR – After several rounds of talks mediated by the Labour Minister, Honourable Peter David, the Grenada Union of Teachers and the Government Negotiating Team, reached agreement Friday, on a comprehensive settlement to the salary increase dispute which disrupted industrial relations among some public officers.
Government had sought a deferral in the payment of increases for 2021 due to economic conditions brought about the COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequently proposed that payments would begin in August. However, payment for the first seven months of 2021 was still a point of contention.
Friday’s agreement effectively settles the matter. Effective August 2021, public officers will begin receiving the 4% increase due for 2021. The retroactive payment, due for the period January to July 2021, will be met by a financial institution which has agreed to accept the Government-issued 12-month bonds, in exchange for paying teachers, upfront in cash.
The 4% increase due to public officers was agreed upon in the 2019 Collective Agreement, for the period 2020 to 2022, between Government and trade unions representing public sectors employees. Starting in January 2020, as agreed, and continuing all through that year, despite the economic fallout from the pandemic, Government honoured the agreement and state employees received the agreed increase.
However, the extent of the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic which forced the closure of Grenada’s borders and a literal shutdown of the economy, resulted in a dramatic decline in Government’s revenue, of more than 50%.
Unlike in some CARICOM countries where Governments were forced to cut the pay of public officers, the Government of Grenada paid the agreed upon salaries for all of 2020, only requesting a deferral of the 4% increase due in 2021, a measure intended to allow Government to help the thousands of other workers who lost their jobs and were without income for an extended period.
However, the unions and some of their members responded by taking industrial action to demand the 4% increase which the state has so far, been unable to pay.
Now that agreement has been reached, Head of the Government’s Negotiating Team, Hon. Oliver Joseph and President of the Grenada Union of Teachers, Jude Bartholomew, who led the union’s team, have expressed the hope that the industrial climate will be normalised.
Minister David thanked both sides for their patience during the process of mediation. He also thanked Labour Commissioner, Cyrus Griffith for his earlier efforts at conciliation and for his valuable guidance during the mediation efforts.
Government has stated that industrial stability is indispensable to the country’s advancement and the ability of stakeholders to work together to achieve that objective, particularly in the face of challenges brought on by the COVID-19.