ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada – President of the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT), Jude Bartholomew, says he will not be intimidated after he was released from a police station on Saturday night
“This is the proudest moment in my life…we have to stay firm,” he said, cheering supporters, including Andre Lewis of the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU), George Mason of the Commercial & Industrial Workers Union (CIWU), and Brian Grimes of the Public Workers Union (PWU).
In a statement, the GUT said that Bartholomew was taken to the St. David’s Police Station, where he was questioned for more than three hours.
“The law enforcement officers interrogated him about recent actions held by the Grenada Union of Teachers re the four percent action specifically dealing with the March on April 7th, 2021,” the statement said, noting that Bartholomew “refused to answer most questions due to the absence of his legal representative. He also refused to sign any statement which the officers wrote.
“GUT views this move as harassment and intimidation because of the ongoing industrial actions taken in recent times,” the union said in its statement on Sunday.
Last week, the teachers took to the streets to support “social and economic justice,” calling on the Keith Mitchell administration to pay the four percent increase in salary as agreed upon in the 2018 collective bargaining agreement.
Late last year, the government informed unions that it would be unable to pay the increase because of reduced revenue due to the measures implemented to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
In its monthly fiscal report, the government said there had been a 50 percent of the revenue projected in the 2020 budget, and further reduction for this year is anticipated.
The unions are contending that the government’s fiscal situation is not as negative as claimed. The government says that the decision to pay the increase will result in a monthly increase of EC$13.2 million (one EC dollar=US 0.37 cents) for the year.
“Covid-19 has, without question, significantly disrupted life as we know it, and Government has had to bear the brunt of the impact. In the blink of an eye, the Government had to take immediate emergency policy action to provide support to households and businesses, which involved significant unplanned expenditure,” said a government statement in January.
The Mitchell government has asked the union to defer the salary increase to a later date, but no date has been given.
As he emerged from the police station on Saturday night, the GUT president said the action by the police “would never shake me,” adding he wanted to send out a clear message that he will “not be intimidated.”
Police Commissioner, Edvin Martin, had warned following the street protest that the police would take “swift and decisive action” against persons violating the COVID-19 protocols.
Bartholomew later told an online publication that the police action taken against him on Saturday amounted to “intimidation because they find that we are probably making inroads in terms of our demands for the four percent.
“And it may be because I am a young person who just takes over the reign of the GUT, so, probably they think that by doing so (detaining me for questioning), they could intimidate me, but they would not succeed.”
“I think that the government has made a big mistake because if they thought they were doing that to intimidate and to make us keep quiet, what they have done is raise an ants’ nest because, in less than no time, teachers would have reached in St. David’s from every part of Grenada.”