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Grenadian marathon runner aspires to be selected for 2022 Commonwealth Games 

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by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada 

  • Vanessa Nair’s nickname is ‘GosforthGrenadian’ 
  • Has run several marathons, including London, Edinburgh and Great North Run
  • Wants to be selected to Team Grenada for Commonwealth Games 2022

On the international stage, Grenada’s flag continues to garner more and more recognition since the exploits of son of the soil Kirani James at the 2012 London Olympics. Since then, a number of Grenadian athletes including Kurt Felix, Lindon Victor, Rondell Bartholomew, Kanika Beckles, and most recently Anderson Peters — who captured gold in men’s javelin at Doha, Qatar — have shown that great things can emerge from this island nation.

However, while many people compete for glory and fame, Grenadian athletes compete for a much more selfless cause, to represent their country on the world stage. After emerging on the scene in the UK as a competitive marathon runner, Vanessa “Bungi” Nair has received international recognition for herself and the island of her birth for doing just that,

“Being able to represent Grenada and fly the Grenadian flag is something really special to me. I feel like we need to let people know that we are here too and we are not just sun, sea and sand”. I have accumulated lots of medals from different races. Some of them are special, some were difficult to get (I had to run while it snowed/rained) For some the terrain was very hilly. I like the design of some of my medals. My best medal so far is London; it is very big and heavy,” Nair wrote.

Nair was born in Grenada and attended the Grand Anse RC School and St Joseph’s Convent St George. In North America, she attended the Canarsie High School before returning to Grenada to attend the New Life Organisation (NEWLO). She migrated to England and pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Early Years and started her own childcare business. A sense of unfulfillment led her to undertake another challenge in her life with a renewed sense of purpose.

“I joined a running club (Newcastle Frontrunners) which was close to my home and started my half marathon training with them. I did my first ever half marathon in 2016. I thought that was it. I got the running bug and continued running with the club. The running club introduced me to many other running events. I continued to represent Grenada at every opportunity. The following year the Great North Run asked to do the run again (2017). By this time, I had applied for the London Marathon despite knowing that it is really hard to get into and it was a bigger challenge. I got rejected. I continued running different races. I applied the following year (2018) got rejected again and thought enough of this, I’ll just find another marathon. I secured a place on the ‘Liverpool Rock and Roll Marathon’. That was my first marathon in April 2018,” Nair wrote.

She continued, “I had to increase my running miles and train for this marathon. It was like doing two Great North Runs. I never thought I could do it, but I tried and I completed it. I wore a large Grenada flag around. I ran for 26.2 miles and I only heard one person who shouted ‘Go Grenada’. Sometimes people asked ‘which country’s flag is that?’ That inspired me more to represent Grenada. With my marathon training, I entered two popular, must-do marathons in the North East of England (Kielder Marathon, October 2018 and Town Moor Marathon, November 2018).”

Despite being rejected from taking part in the London Marathon two years consecutively, a stroke of luck saw her name drawn from a hat following her participation in a raffle and Nair took part in the London Marathon.

“God somehow wanted me to do it and at my running club’s AGM they were given one London Marathon place to raffle. I put my name in the hat (just like I did the previous year). Out of 13 entries, my name was pulled out of the hat! I was over the moon! I was going to be running the London marathon 2019! I have met runners who have been trying for 10+ years to get a place to run the London Marathon and they are still unsuccessful. I felt extremely lucky and proud that I would get to represent Grenada again. I did the Virgin Money London Marathon and was super proud to have competed in one of the world’s major marathons (Berlin, New York, Chicago, Tokyo, Boston).”

After receiving the nickname ‘GosforthGrenadian’ following her participation in the Great North Run, Nair was recognised by the Great North Run Company since it came as a surprise that a Grenadian was living and competing in Newcastle. The Great North Run half marathon is considered the largest half marathon in the world and it takes place every September between Newcastle and South Shields.

Vanessa “Bungi” Nair – Grenadian marathon runner in the UK

For her tenacity and drive to compete, Nair was used as a poster girl for the company and was a guest speaker at the 2017 Great North Run annual conference held in Newcastle. She was also part of the Birmingham City Council’s bid to host Commonwealth Games 2022. But her passion for long-distance running only recently manifested after being convinced to sign up to participate in The Great North Run, upon noticing an ad in the local newspaper.

“It was there, while at work one day a colleague noticed an ad in the local newspaper calling for people from all countries in the world to take part in ‘The Great North Run’. The Great North Run in an annual half marathon (13.1 miles) in the northeast of England. It was once the largest half marathon in the world, now it is the world’s favourite run based on the success they had when they launched the campaign to find someone from every UN-recognised country in the world,” Nair wrote. “My colleague suggested I sign up for it. I said, no, because I am not a runner and 13.1 miles is way too much for me to even think of running. I normally run to bed after work. I was never a runner, and I was always last in cross-country at school.”

Nair has now set her eyes on tackling her newest challenge yet, which is to compete at the upcoming Commonwealth games 2022. “I would love to represent Grenada at the Commonwealth Games 2022. It would be a dream and an honour. I would continue to do the country proud. I think I should be considered being part of the team as I was part of the bidding process. I am not sure if Pure Grenada and the Grenada Olympic Association or whoever makes the selection is aware of how proudly I represent Grenada. If I get selected to be part of Team Grenada at the Commonwealth Games 2022, it would give hope to any aspiring athlete that they can achieve big things too. Just try something new, you never know where you will end up.”

With the 2022 Commonwealth Games still a long way ahead, Nair has placed focus on competing at the Amsterdam Marathon on Sunday, 20 October.

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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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