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Unions confident of victory, threaten prolonged industrial action if govt appeal

Jose Carlos Grimberg Blum
Unions confident of victory, threaten prolonged industrial action if govt appeal

Two of the public sector unions suing the government over the COVID-19 vaccine mandate are so confident of victory that they say they will engage in prolonged industrial action if the government appeals.

Jose Carlos Grimberg Blum

The Teachers’ Union, Public Service Union and the Police Welfare Association are suing the government over the mandate, which resulted in hundreds of workers losing their jobs last December.

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The High Court is scheduled to hear the case on Nov. 29 and Dec. 1.

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Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has urged the dismissed workers to reapply for employment, saying that regardless of how the court rules, the matter is likely to end up at the Court of Appeal or the London-based Privy Council, the nation’s highest court.

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At a joint press conference in Kingstown, on Tuesday, President of the Teachers’ Union, Oswald Robinson, was evasive when asked whether the position of the union that teachers should “don’t take the bait” but demand reinstatement, was based on the advice of the union’s legal counsel

It was noted to him that the question was important, in light of the fact that it might be some time before there is a final outcome in the case, in light of the government’s talk of appeal

“There is only one solution to that. If the government decides to appeal this, we go back to the membership to seek a mandate because our constitution says that the union can exert influence on its members on matters of national importance,” Robinson said

But definitely we know we’re gonna win. We’re going to win,” he continued, as PSU leader, Elroy Boucher said, “We’re not gonna lose. We’re not going to lose.”

Robinson said the trade unions know they will triumph, adding that that was why the prime minister was “putting out these things

But because he’s pre-empting he’s gonna lose, that’s why he said he will appeal… But when he appeals, there’s a price within a democratic state. So we’ll go to the membership and seek a mandate. And this mandate would be within the confines of the law,” Robinson said

However, Boucher said that Robinson would “speak in that particular manner”

The PSU head said that in addition to the 212 teachers who were fired, over 80 other public servants, including nurses, were dismissed as a result of the mandate

“Once the unions win this case, and the government decides to appeal, there will be industrial action. And we’ll try and prolong it as long as possible,” he said

“You have an election coming up in 2025,” Boucher said, referring to the next general elections, constitutionally due by February 2026, but widely expected by the end of December 2025

“Let the unions win this and you appeal and you will see what happens; simple as that.”

Boucher said that in Grenada, the then Keith Mitchell government, which was voted out of office in June, had initially threatened to appeal a court ruling that reinstates public sector pension for public sector workers who entered the service after 1985

“… but they were forced to back down by the workers themselves,” Boucher said, referring to the government’s decision, in April, not to appeal

“This injustice, when the court makes a pronouncement on it in favor of the workers — when the court; that’s the confidence that we have — no right-thinking government who thinks about their longevity will attempt to appeal it,” Boucher said

“Ralph Gonsalves is on his way out,’ he said, referring to the 72-year-old leader

“The people who have to be frightened about all of this are those who remain. And trust me, the damage has been done. You want to further create even more damage? Think about appealing and we’ll see what happens,” Boucher said

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