BROOKLYN, NY – Public sector workers took to the streets here on Wednesday urging the Grenada government to restore their constitutionally guaranteed right to pension on retirement.
The protest march had been organized by the Public Workers Union (PWU), the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT), and the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU). It came less than 24 hours before the High Court here is to hear arguments by attorneys representing both the state and the unions on the restoration of the pension.
“We are calling on the court to restore justice. The government has failed to implement justice for the working-class men, the teachers, public officers, nurses, doctors, police officers, and prison officers,” said GUT President Jude Bartholomew.
“We ask for social and economic justice, and we ask the government of Grenada to restore our pension,” he told reporters, as some of the estimated 1,000 public servants held up placards that read, “Imagine 40 years of Labour Den Retirement!! Ah go home to die or beg. Ease the Tension. Pay the Pension”.
Bartholomew said that the pension for the public officers became legal in 1958 and was included in the Grenada Constitution when the island gained its political independence from Britain in 1974.
“It is embedded in the Constitution of Grenada. Justice must be done for the workers too,” Bartholomew said, adding that the pension is restored “for all the hard-working workers, teachers, doctors, nurses, police officers, prison officers, and everybody who deserved to get a pension.”
He said government ministers are qualified to receive a pension after serving only two terms to get a pension and other benefits.
The pension issue surfaced with the collapse of the 1979-83 Grenada Revolution, which had suspended the island’s Constitution, which was only restored after the left-wing government of prime minister Maurice Bishop was removed in a palace coup, allowing for the United States and Caribbean troops to restore democratic rule here on October 25, 1983.
During the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) reign, it established the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) as a replacement for the pension provisions that were enshrined in the Constitution.
However, before the 2018 general election, the ruling New National Party (NNP) of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with public sector unions to provide for pension restoration.
Last month in a radio and television broadcast, Prime Minister Mitchell said regarding pensions, “government is fully committed to ensuring a just and equitable pension arrangement that would allow retired public officers the ability to have dignity and a high quality of life in post-retirement.”
Mitchell said the government had also commissioned a study of the Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre (CARTAC).
“We have received a draft report and are in the process of reviewing the initial recommendations to ensure that they provide a sound basis for an equitable settlement of this long outstanding issue. It should be noted, with certainty, that this government is determined to resolve the issue, once and for all,” he said then.