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Government and unions wage talks stall in the face of unrealistic demands

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Salary talks between the Government Negotiating Team (GNT) and the joint negotiating union team of Public Workers Union (PWU) and the Technical and Allied Workers Union (TAWU) became stalled and deadlocked at the third session which took place on Tuesday, 8 October 2019.

The unions are insisting on a near 25% increase in pay, without providing a shred of written justification for their demands. Those demands would increase the government’s expenditure on salaries by more than $90 million over the next three-year contract cycle.

The demand is highly unrealistic and far exceeds any such payment of salary increases locally and in the region, including lucrative businesses in banking and other areas of the private sector, with which TAWU and other unions have signed.

During the last contract cycle, workers received increases every year during 2017 to 2019, amounting to 10% compounded increase over the period. The unions’ current demand, amounting to 150% of the previous settlement, is unsustainable and unprecedented.

By comparison, in Barbados, after almost eight years of no increases, trade unions accepted a 5% one-off increase, without back pay, while at the same time having to face increased rates and other taxes.

The unions’ demand for a near 25% increase in pay will overturn all of the sacrifices made by the country to achieve fiscal stability and economic growth. Millions of dollars in grants and concessionary loans currently secured by Grenada would be extinguished; programmes of house repair and training programmes for the youth and labour assistance to farmers would have to be cut and this would also significantly reduce the assistance government provides to homes for the elderly and any wage increase which would go to workers there.

Additionally, Grenada will have to resort to measures applied in neighbouring Barbados and hundreds of public officers would have to be retrenched, something which the Government of Grenada has successfully avoided. Worse, those demands would trigger an inflationary spiral and lead to a flight of direct foreign investment from the local economy leading to job losses in the private sector and a return to high unemployment and fall in family incomes once again.

Since June, the GNT circulated to the unions its Policy Guidelines for Salary Increases which emphasised that salary negotiations must be fact-based and within the Fiscal Responsibility Law.

In an earlier letter to the unions, the GNT warned that this unrealistic demand “raises the question of good faith collective bargaining.” It also counselled that “One ought not to come to the table with demands which are financially impossible for an employer to meet.”

In its letter, the GNT requested that the unions revise their demands within reason and reminded them that by law, negotiations should be concluded on salary increases by October 31 in order to meet inclusion in the budgetary allocations for the fiscal year 2020.

The GNT proposes an increase to public officers of $26.5 million, as part of an overall package where the state has already made additions to the restoration of pensions to appointed, qualifying public officers. Additionally, the state would have to meet further increases through increments to those public officers whose contracts of employment would now be of an unspecified period, giving them permanent tenure.

On the issue of fringe benefits which is yet another expense for the state, the GNT pointed out that the upcoming comprehensive job evaluation carded to commence soon, would see further increases in the salary of public officers, in addition to the negotiated increases. Therefore, increases to and additional fringe benefits negotiations cannot be entertained before the job evaluation exercise. In effect, public officers will receive three streams of increases in 2020.

Thus, the unions’ failure to adopt a realistic and reasonable stance in Tuesday’s negotiations, has resulted in the salary negotiations being declared deadlocked. Under the provisions of the Collective Labour Agreements as well as the Labour Code, the dispute has been referred to the Ministry of Labour for conciliation by the Labour Commissioner.

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Caribbean & World

2020 Independence awardees encouraged to display symbol of honour

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by Linda Straker

  • 4 persons awarded by National Heroes and Honours Committee as part of 2020 Independence celebrations
  • Governor-General said no greater honour than to be honoured for service in one’s own land

The four persons awarded by the National Heroes and Honours Committee as part of the 2020 Independence celebrations were on Thursday, 20 February 2020 encouraged to wear the insignia and to also use the initials that come with the honour, after their names.

“There is no greater honour than to be honoured for the service in one’s own land,” Governor-General, Dame Cecile La Grenade told the recipients as she encouraged them to display their symbols of honour.

“We proudly acknowledge your invaluable work,” she said, pointing out that service was at the heart of the investiture ceremony. The awardees were named on Independence Day, 7 February, during the annual rally but the awards were delivered in a special ceremony held at the Governor-General’s residence in Point Saline.

The 2020 awardees were:

  • Jason deCaires Taylor who received the Most Distinguished Order of the Nation in recognition of his remarkable achievement and contribution to the tourism industry
  • Former Teacher/Public Servant, Samantha Dickson who received the Spiceisle award for her dedicated service to Grenada
  • Jean Eileen Renwick who received the Camerhogne Award for her contribution to horticulture and tourism
  • The Medal of Honour was presented to Clinton Bailey for his gallantry, generous and selfless spirit.

According to the Office of the Governor-General, the title of Sir can be used by any person awarded the titles of Knight Grand Collar (KN) or Dame Grand Collar (DN); Knight Grand Cross (GCNG) or Dame Grand Cross (DGNG) and Knight Commander (KCNG) or Dame Commander (DCNG). Persons receiving the honour of Commander should use CNG; those as Officer should use ONG and those as Member should use MNG.

Jason deCaires Taylor is an internationally acclaimed sculptor, environmentalist and professional underwater photographers create dynamic sculptural installations on the ocean floor to promote ocean conservation and address the perils of climate change. In Grenada, his pieces can be viewed in the Moliniere Underwater Park. As he was absent from the ceremony, Susan Mains accepted the insignia on his behalf.

Bailey received the award for the instrumental role he played in rescuing several persons at sea at different times, while Dickson who served as a public officer for 30 years, was honoured for her many roles which include teacher, guidance counsellor, Health Director of the Red Cross office in Grenada and Deputy/Acting National Disaster Coordinator of the National Disaster Management Agency (NaDMA.)

Renwick’s many achievements include developing the garden tourism product in Grenada.

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120 criminal records expunged from system

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by Linda Straker

  • Grenada established Rehabilitation Board in May 2018
  • Board meets monthly to consider all new applications or review those pending
  • 120 applications approved, of which 120 are males and 9 are females

From June 2018 to December 2019, the Rehabilitation Offenders Board received 129 applications from persons requesting that their criminal records be expunged from the records of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF). Of the 120 applications approved, 120 were from males and 9 from females.

Dr Lawrence Joseph who is Chairman of the Board said that the members of the board meet monthly to consider all new applications or review those pending. The board receives an average of 7 applications per month.

Most of the applications are for petty crimes. Matters which are excluded from expunging are: murder; voluntary manslaughter; robbery with violence; arson and any indictable offence carrying a penalty including imprisonment for a term of 15 years or more of imprisonment. A sentence of imprisonment for life and a sentence of imprisonment for a term exceeding five years do not qualify to be expunged under the 2017 legislation.

In May 2018, Grenada announced the establishment of the Rehabilitation Board, in accordance with the Rehabilitation of Offenders legislation which came into effect 1 November 2017.

The 5-member board which meets monthly falls under the Ministry of National Security also includes a representative from the Ministry of Social Development, the Police, the Youth and the Office of the Prime Minister. The board is appointed for a 3-year period.

The process for expunging requires the person to pay an application fee of EC$50 to the treasury then apply to the board for consideration to have the record expunged. All applicants will undergo a social enquiry report.

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Sale of Grenada Pre-Columbian pottery fragments on eBay sparks outrage

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by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada

  • Pre-Columbian Polychrome pottery fragments on the e-commerce website eBay
  • Excavated from Pearls in St Andrew, is currently listed for sale as low as US$40

Archeologist, Dr Jonathan Hanna, became concerned after spotting the sale of Pre-Columbian Polychrome pottery fragments on the e-commerce website eBay this past week. The pottery fragment dated around 300-600 CE, was said to be excavated from the old Pearls airport located in St Andrew, and is currently listed for sale on eBay for as low as US$40.

Dr Hanna, who constantly monitors these auction sites, said this illegal action is quite common, however he was concerned since this was the first time he has seen artefacts being sold on eBay that was said to be from Grenada. Upon making the observation, he immediately took to social media to solicit the assistance of concerned Grenadians to report these sellers to eBay.

“This is the first time I caught something that was explicitly mentioned as from Grenada (often, it’s not clear what island the artefacts come from). This one was very likely found at Pearls (as the listing says), given it matches the unique abundance of such adornos found there,” Hanna said.

Ebay provides for the reporting of such illicit activity among other concerns that arise when making purchases using the platform, however there are those who believe that the system is not robust and does not allow for the reporting of all violations.

Hanna continued, “I monitor eBay for various terms related to pre-Columbian artefacts in the Caribbean. I’ve been seeing more stuff lately on Etsy than eBay, unfortunately, and I’m probably missing a lot. But these are just the tip of the iceberg, since there are more things being sold on private auction sites.”

Dr Hanna pointed out that the seller deliberately tried to falsify the date as to when these artefacts were excavated in an attempt to mislead potential buyers into thinking it was discovered prior to the 1970 UNESCO convention which was created to prevent the illicit trade of cultural artefacts. “It’s almost certainly not from the excavations in the 1960s. That is a lie intended to place its theft before the 1970 UNESCO convention. Collectors always do this, trying to grandfather their recent purchases into some excusable past innocence,” he said.

Under the 1990 Heritage Protection Act, the Government of Grenada established as a protected area for Amerindian artefacts. This was later repealed by the National Museum Act (No. 12 of 2017) which covers all archaeological sites on the island and Heritage imposes a $10,000 fine for selling Grenada’s antiquities.

Grenada is also a signatory to the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transport of Ownership of Cultural Property, the 1972 UNESCO World Heritage Convention, the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects and the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.

Concerned citizens in Grenada are being asked to report the sale of Pre-Columbian Polychrome pottery fragments on eBay and any other e-commerce sites.

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