Minister of communications and works and member of parliament for St George's South East the hon Gregory Bowen is seemingly engaged in a battle of "class warfare" with the trade union movement.
Minister Bowen appears to have abdicated his responsibilities at the ministry of communications and works and has emerged as the government chief spokesman on the structural adjustment program. In what seems a change of roles, the minister of finance and prime minister has decided to take a back seat, and allow minister Bowen to slog it out with the unions.
The strategy of the NNP administration is to use minister Bowen to do the government and party's "dirty” work since he may not be going on for re-election in the next general elections, which are constitutionally due in 2018. Minister Bowen isn't expected to seek re-election because of poor health and his biological age. However, given the attitude of these politicians, it is sometimes difficult to predict with any measure of certainty what their move would be. Who would have ever predicted that within the first year of taking office Mr Mitchell would have imposed so many taxes on the working class.
Gregory Bowen’s recent outburst that some unions leaders don't want the government to sign the letter of intent is very disingenuous and confrontational. The unions can't prevent government from signing any letter of intent. Minister Oliver Joseph indicated that government will the sign the letter by the end of the month with or without an agreement with the unions. The minister must be truthful and provide the country with all the facts.
The unions will be foolhardy to accept government proposals "blindfolded”. No sensible trade union movement would give any government a blank check to do its membership whatever they feel like. It is extremely unreasonable for the NNP administration and Mr Mitchell, after promising not to impose taxes on the people, to ask the union membership to make such a heavy sacrifice without any guarantee of reaping any benefit in return.
Apart from having to deal with a 15% VAT, as much as 45% in income tax, increase in property taxes, licence fees, in addition to other penalties and levies, government is now demanding that workers accept a three-year wage freeze and a freeze on their increment with a performance related incentive. This is total "madness" on the part of government.
Given the track record of the NNP, the demands of the unions are very reasonable and in sync with what the solutions to these economic problems dictate. The unions are aware of the treatment that government has meted out to its creditors. They are aware of the letter that these creditors wrote to the prime minister in relationship to the "bad faith" that his administration is showing to them. Should the unions fall in the same trap?
Given the implications that the structural adjustment program will have on the future of the membership of the unions, the unions have a right and a responsibility to their members to be integrally involved in the process. Their membership is the ones who will be most negatively affected. Minister Bowen has already received his 11% percent increase, which will cushion him and his family for the next three years, so he can say anything he want. He also has the resources to withstand 20 more economic recessions, having been in office in his capacity as minister of works and agriculture from 1995-2008.
The unions are aware of the philosophy of minister Bowen and the NNP very well. These individuals can't be trusted. They have not been truthful and honest with the people throughout their political life. It is alleged that they are using fear, intimidation, victimization, coercion, cronyism, nepotism, discrimination, as inducements to advance their political aspirations. The unions must be commended for standing up firmly against the "destructive elements" without the NNP who has absolutely nothing to lose since they are enjoying their pre-retirement benefits by sitting in the nation’s parliament doing nothing of great significance to advance the interest of the country and its people. The country can certainly do without their negative contributions at this time.
Comrade the Hon senator Ray Roberts, GUT President Lewis, PWU President Harford, all the progressive unions leaders and members of the TUC must be commended for their professionalism in dealing with this issue. They have looked beyond mere party politics and bickering and are dealing with the substantive issues confronting their membership. These patriotic sons and daughters, unlike those "bugs" in the NNP bed, understand and appreciate their role and responsibilities to the country, its people and their membership. They deserve the support of all patriotic and sensible citizens of Grenada. Minister Bowen and NNP must understand that it is not business as usual. Serious times warrant serous action by serious people. This is not the time for “political adventurism" or "hit and a miss" politics.
Grenada can't afford any form of "squandermania". The country can't afford to repeat NNP mistakes of 1995-2008. Mr Bowen and the NNP were players then and are players now. The unions know they have to proceed with caution. They were the ones that the prime minister told he doesn't depend on his salary to survive and are carrying the burden of the SAP.
As the end of February draws nigh, the approach to the unions by minister Bowen and the NNP administration will determine the industrial climate for 2014 and beyond. Mr Bowen and the NNP seem prepared to lay the blame on the unions for any failures in the program. The battle lines are clearly drawn and it would require statesmanship from the politicians to resolve the issues of contention. Government should know that they can't win a battle with the unions. While the president of the powerful TAWU is uncharacteristically silent, the membership are the ones who will decide the position of the that union. With Mr Bowen, Mitchell in the twilight of their political careers the country can't afford for these men to do more damage to the country and put the future of the young people in jeopardy .
Long live the trade union movement! Forward ever! Backward never!