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Captain Jex leads team on Bahamas humanitarian mission

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by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada 

  • Captain Jex and volunteer team to supplies to the Bahamas
  • Earl Maitland of Grenada Empowerment Movement Inc (GEM) spearheaded donation drive
  • Account at Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited set up for donations

A humanitarian mission to the Bahamas following the passage of Hurricane Dorian will see a team of four volunteers led by Joel “Captain Jex” Mark deliver over EC$30,000 worth of supplies and act as foot soldiers to assist affected people.

Aboard his 47-foot Beneteau SA Sailboat, the crew sailed from the Lagoon on Friday, 20 September with water, clothing, utility supplies, and food to the hurricane-ravaged island. But even more daring, the team plan on making a second trip to the Bahamas but will require the continuous assistance of donors who helped in gathering necessary relief items.

A task that took nearly two weeks to complete, Earl Maitland of Grenada Empowerment Movement Inc (GEM) spearheaded a donation drive together with Mount Pure Mineral Water which donated EC$12,000 worth of bottled water; the Grand Anse Bus Association which donated food supplies and Andy Williams of Hot Spot who donated two tabletop stoves. Several other organisations and individuals also assisted in the donation drive. Maitland commended the crew for their bravery and hope that these men receive the recognition they deserve.

“I consider these men to be heroes, they are the ones going to the Bahamas through whatever challenges they may face out at sea, but they are upstanding men of great character and I believe that these men should be recognised by the Grenadian government as heroes,” Maitland said.

Monday, 16 September was first departure date given from Grenada, but the team managed to leave a few days later due to the number of supplies coming in. “One of the major reasons we ended up staying here until tomorrow is because people from around the island have called us to make contributions. We didn’t want to leave out anything seeing that the disaster over there, people have lost everything, so we want to bring as much as we could,” he said.

Captain Jex and his crew are expected to travel approximately 1,196.545 nautical miles to the Bahamas in uncertain weather, and are hoping to make the trip in 10 days if favourable weather allows. He said making the long trip to the Bahamas will not be easy since they received little assistance in purchasing fuel for the vessel.

“The fuel to be used for this journey was provided by people making monetary donations to us, so this is what we are going to be using to conserve fuel for the trip by utilising wind, but if there is no wind then we just sit it out until the winds come to make sure that we get there, because upon arrival we will have to do a lot of motoring to get into the port,” Mark said.

The team is expected to stay approximately two weeks before returning. Back at home, Maitland is expected to continue to gather more items and relief supplies to be shipped to the island on the team’s second voyage. In this regard, the team is asking that people donate financially towards this mission to ensure its success.

An account, number 400000283 for Sailing to Better Lives, was created at the Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited for persons eager to assist in that regard. Supplies or food items donors are encouraged to contact Earl Maitland on 4031351.

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Caribbean & World

NEWLO facilities to accommodate more technical skills training 

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by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada

  • TVET Training programmes at NEWLO after hours
  • Skills for Youth Employment funded through by Department for International Development over 4 years

In an attempt to fully utilise the facility at the New Life Organisation (NEWLO) after its usual closing hours in the evening, the Government of Grenada in conjunction with the Department for International Development (DFID) will be commencing TVET training programmes for young people in a number of on-demand skill area.

The first skills training programme, Skills for Youth Employment (SkYE) is funded by the DFID over 4 years; EC$3.3 million will cover 65% of the cost. Government is expected to fund EC$375,000 the cost associated with transportation and refreshments per year. 120 young per year people will receive training in skill areas including:

  • Furniture-Making (Level 1)
  • Cosmetology (Level 2)
  • Carpentry (Level 2)
  • Early Childhood (Level 2)
  • Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (Level 2)
  • TV and Video Production (Level 2)

SkYE is a four-year programme valued at £9.1 million designed to promote economic growth and sustainable development. Grenada is not alone in the implementation of such training since the programme is also rolled out in St Lucia, Dominica, and St Vincent and the Grenadines after eight months of research and design work.

Over 6,000 young people ages 15 to 30 are eligible for training under the SkYE programme across the aforementioned territories, which is said to improve their employability in sectors where there is evident demand for skilled workers.

The first batch of young people started training under the SkYE in October while the government is preparing to begin training of 70 adults over the age of 35 during November.

Areas of skills training include:

  • Agro-processing
  • Fabric Design
  • Hospitality Services
  • Crop Production
  • Poultry Rearing

This component of the training will be fully covered by the government and like the previous programme will be held at NEWLO. Both programmes will be held in the evening as the government realises the need to fully utilise the NEWLO facility.

“Really, what has happened at NEWLO is a second shift has been created at the institution. Many times an institution closes at 2:30 pm and the building that is filled with equipment. The doors are just closed for the rest of the day, but at NEWLO now we are having a second shift so we are now being more efficient as a country in terms of utilising our resources,” said Minister for Tertiary Education, Skill Development & Education Outreach Hon. Pamela Moses.

Minister Moses was particularly pleased since this would mean that more young people can be empowered especially young people challenged by disability. “There is one main condition that the government and NEWLO have had to accede to for this training and is that 10% of the trainees must be disabled youth, so we have met that quota. New Life Organisation is not just training our able-bodied youth but is training youth that have challenges, who are disabled in one form or the other.”

Other courses accompanying the training are computer and life skills, literacy and numeracy and Job placement training. The selection of participants under the adult component of the government-funded skills training programme has already been completed and will cost approximately $600,000 yearly. The training will run between nine and 13 months dependent upon the course undertaken.

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College Council to inform government on increments payment to TAMCC employees 

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by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada 

  • Tertiary Education Minister, Pamela Moses, said TAMCC College Council responsible for payment of increments
  • PWU demanding payment of increments of over $6 million from 2014

Interim Chairperson for the TA Marryshow Community College (TAMCC) College Council, Augustine Vesprey, had no other choice but to walk past determined protesters of the Public Workers Union (PWU) as he made his way through the Teachers Education Department moments before convening a meeting with the rest of the members of the council.

The outcome of the meeting held on Tuesday, 12 November is still not known, however, it followed the announcement made by Minister for Tertiary Education, Skill Development and Education Outreach, Pamela Moses, that the government is not responsible for paying increments demanded by the PWU; payment is the responsibility of the College Council.

Public Workers Union (PWU) members protest nonpayment of increments

The PWU is demanding payment of increments of over $6 million from 2014 when Grenada entered into a three-year Homegrown Structural Adjustment Programme which forced various public sector unions to accept a freeze on increments.

“We know that our increments are a significant amount and if we allow it to continue it will build up more, so we want to ensure that this matter is settled… we have been extremely patient, we cannot be patient anymore,” said President of the PWU, Rachel Roberts.

TAMCC receives an annual subvention from the government of $14 million. It is the responsibility of the College Council to govern the operation of the institution which was established by Act No. 41 of 1996 — the TA Marryshow Community College Act — making the college a fully-fledged educational institution. However, the act was said to have stopped short of allowing the college to have full autonomy over its operations.

Roberts said the subvention received from government is inadequate and cannot support the day to day operations of the college and, since the Government of Grenada regulates the fees at the college which is heavily subsidised, the college is also unable to raise funds needed to cover its expenses, which include the payment of increments to the workers employed by the College Council. “TAMCC doesn’t have the ability to charge the true cost of any programme that a student may undertake at the institution, so therefore, TAMCC is strapped. Their hands are tied and they cannot do anything unless the government supports them.”

Public Workers Union (PWU) members protest nonpayment of increments

At the college are two categories of workers: 35 workers employed through the Public Service Commission (PSC) who are workers on secondment transferred to the college from schools and ministries, and 243 permanent workers employed by the College Council. The workers employed by the College Council are the ones demanding payment of increments since those employed through the PSC retain their status as government employees and are currently benefiting from ongoing negotiations led by the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT).

Minister Moses stated at yesterday’s post-cabinet briefing that it is the responsibility of the College Council through the finance committee to make payments to those categories of workers. The College Council by law has what is known as standing committees…one of which is the finance committee and according to section 11 (2) (e) it states that the finance committee manages the funds of the college and so makes recommendations for its investment thereafter. As such the finance committee through the council if it can find savings and use it to pay increments as it sees fit… and all the council has to do is to inform government of its decision.

In light of this, cabinet has requested that the College Council submit a plan to the government detailing how it plans on paying the $6.1 million in increments.

Thus far the council has selected a sub-finance committee to meet on this matter and then later this week the council will meet with the union in an attempt to resolve the issue,” said Minister Moses.

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Two unions deadlocked with government while third close to concluding negotiations

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by Linda Straker

  • 3 trade unions represent more than 6,000 government-employed workers
  • Fiscal Responsibility Law mandates government’s wage bill cannot exceed 9% of GDP in any year
  • Talks progressing smoothly with Grenada Union of Teachers

Oliver Joseph, Head of the Government’s Negotiating Team, believes that one of the trade unions currently engaged in negotiations for the period 2020 to 2022 will conclude its negotiations before the presentation of the 2020 Budget, scheduled for 20 November.

3 trade unions are representing more than 6,000 workers employed by government. Talks with the Public Workers Union (PWU) and the Grenada Technical and Allied Workers Union (GTAWU) which are negotiating jointly, were declared deadlocked after the third round.

“With regards to the Grenada Union of Teachers, talks are progressing smoothly. We are confident that we will soon reach a settlement given the significant movement by both sides,” Joseph said when he provided an update on the situation during the weekly Tuesday post-cabinet briefing.

“We are at the stage with the GUT where we think that before the end of this week we can conclude the negotiations and sign an agreement because of the cordial way in which the negotiations took place, and the willingness of the union negotiators to reach a settlement with government, understanding the fiscal rules,” Joseph said.

Grenada’s Houses of Parliament in 2013 approved several legislations aimed at maintaining sustainable public finances, ensuring fiscal policy assist with economic growth and maintain appropriate levels of public investment. These laws came into effect as of 2014.

“We are negotiating now under different conditions. We have taken a decision, we have passed laws — Fiscal Responsibility Law, Public Finance Management Act — all of which binds the government into a framework. So, we are negotiating within the framework agreement,” Joseph said and called on the unions who are currently in deadlock to respect the law of the land.

“The approach to this negotiation must be fact-based, based on facts and on the evidence,” said Joseph who also serves as Minister for Trade and Industry, Cooperatives and Caricom Affairs.

“The fiscal responsibility law also has what it calls fiscal space. In considering what the award will be for public sector unions that must be taken into consideration,” said the minister who explained that within that space, government has to find money to do all other programmes.

The Fiscal Responsibility Law mandates that government’s wage bill cannot exceed 9% of GDP in any year while the primary expenditure rule says that the government cannot exceed 2% more than the previous year.

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