PSU executive endorses the NDP
The executive of Public Service Union (PSU) has thrown its support behind the New Democratic Party (NDP) and is encouraging public servants to vote against the Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration.
The rationale, says PSU President Elroy Boucher, is that the government, seeking a fifth term, has refused to address several fundamental issues that the PSU sees as critical to the labour force in the country.
Boucher, who held a press briefing on Monday at the PSU’s headquarters in Kingstown, said the organization he heads has communicated on a number of issues with the government and the NDP to see their positions and based on the responses and lack thereof in some instances, they think the NDP will offer better governance.
He said issues like collective bargaining, salary negotiations, pension, sexual harassment legislation, government compliance with court judgments and the ratification of several International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions among other social and labor issues are being ignored by the ULP administration.
On the other hand, Boucher told the press, during a recent meeting with Leader of the Opposition Dr Godwin Friday and other members of the NDP, the PSU heard the opposition’s position on matters the PSU thinks are important and the NDP has agreed to and given the party’s commitment to address the issues once they form government.
As it relates to collective bargaining, Boucher said that is a fundamental right and enshrined in the ILO constitution and our country, being a part of the ILO, has to abide by that constitution but that has not been the case.
Boucher said the PSU submitted a collective bargaining agreement to the government in 2010 but it was never negotiated.
“It never saw the light of day,” Boucher said while noting that this is interesting as in 1998, the PSU held a regional conference in SVG at a time when the ULP was trying to get into office and Dr Ralph Gonsalves presented a lecture in which he said public servants are interested in a reasonable salary but too many Caribbean governments are unwilling partners in the process, and are actually hostile to genuine collective bargaining.
“At that time he was seeking support from the PSU to get into office,” Boucher stated while noting that at the meeting with Friday, the NDP leader said the NDP is open when it comes to matters of collective bargaining, and salary negotiations.
The PSU head said Friday told them they could be assured that the NDP regards collective bargaining and salary negotiations as fundamental to good labour relations and to maintaining an effective and highly motivated public service.
“Therefore, an NDP government will engage in all good faith, collective bargaining and salary negotiation in a respectful and timely manner, to address issues as they arise,” Boucher quoted Friday as saying.
“So we got that commitment from Dr Godwin Friday and the NDP to respecting the process of collective bargaining and I can’t underscore how important this is because I am currently seeing before our very eyes the failure of the government to even honour what was agreed on with respect to the teachers’ union to the extent that we have three teachers who would have won their case and to this day they have yet to be compensated as has been directed by the court,” Boucher said.
He was referring to the fact that the Government has so far refused to honour a January 2019 court ruling to pay costs, damages and pension benefits to Addison Thomas, Elvis Daniel and Kenroy Johnson who resigned after decades of service as teachers in order to contest the general elections of 2010 on an NDP ticket. They were not rehired when they lost the elections.
Boucher said that has again been made an issue in these elections as teacher Shevern John has resigned in order to run for the NDP in North Windward while Carlos Williams, a public servant, has also resigned to run for the ULP in the Northern Grenadines.
Boucher said the PSU and the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU) have never been able to negotiate salaries with the ULP administration and on numerous occasions, the PSU wrote to the PM and the finance minister asking them to adhere to the recommendations set out by the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), but the government has ignored them.
He said the ECCU and the ECCB advise that all countries set up a negotiating committee to meet with unions and SVG is the only country that did not adhere.
“When there is a lack of order, when there is a failure to negotiate, what ensues is chaos and that is why we had the strike action in 2015,” Boucher said.
“We are pleased to know that the New Democratic Party has committed itself to proper negotiations. I know it existed in the previous government, but it was no surprise that they can commit to that because it is what used to happen under an NDP government,” Boucher claimed.
He said the ULP government has displayed contempt for the trade unions, the courts and workers.
“The NDP through its leader Dr Godwin Friday has given its commitment to adhering to the judgments handed down by the court,” Boucher said while adding that the NDP has also agreed to an appraisal system for the public service.
“The response of Dr Friday and the NDP shows us, as a union, that the NDP is willing to commit to addressing the issues if they prevail at the polls. Their approach is one that the PSU welcomes and we are hopeful about. We are convinced that they have demonstrated a concern for workers.”
He went on, “…As a result, and given what I have just stated, and given the failure to even acknowledge the letter written on these important issues, as a result, I wish to urge, to encourage all public officers and workers, in general, to vote for a change of government.
“…I urge all workers to vote for an end to nepotism, cronyism, and favoritism in the promotion regime within the public service.
“I urge all workers to vote for the respect of the collective bargaining process in the Public Service. I urge workers to vote for the implementation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. When you vote for a change of government, you’ll be voting for proper salary negotiations.”
The briefing also heard from PSU’s Public Relations Officer (PRO) Prudence Jeffrey and Joel Poyer, described as a very active member of the organization.
Jeffrey said the PSU had written letters to both the government and the opposition requesting meetings and only the NDP accepted and facilitated them in relation to several matters.