Two unions vote to continue protest action
The end of protests in St Vincent and the Grenadines is seemingly nowhere in sight as trade unions have voted in favour of pursuing industrial action against this government’s vaccination policy.
Members of both the Public Service Union and St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU) met on Wednesday, August 11 to discuss the way forward, following the passage of an amendment to the Public Health Act last week, which will see front-line workers being required to be vaccinated.
Prior to its passage in the House of Assembly, members from both unions took to the streets of Kingstown to demonstrate in disapproval of the proposed amendment.
“Overwhelmingly, people voted to take industrial action. The form of the industrial action will be determined in due course…” Elroy Boucher, president of the Public Service Union (PSU) told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday morning.
Boucher said that the Union’s position on the matter has not changed, and members remain against the amendment passed in the House last week.
“And we do not want that implemented and we will do whatever is necessary to get that message across because the Government appears to be turning a deaf ear to what the trade unions and public servants are actually saying.”
Boucher expressed the belief that the government was slighting the importance of the matter to workers.
And he said it is of such importance that there was a large turnout at last week’s protest, particularly where front-line workers such as nurses, both in and out of uniform were present.
“This is a very serious infringement, very serious, and they don’t seem to recognise and respect the very seriousness of this and the impact it’s going to have on the public service,” the union president said.
“It’s either they don’t recognise it, they have turned a deaf ear, or they just simply don’t care and that is why as a Union, it would be a dereliction of duty if we just roll over and play dead,”Boucher added.
Oswald Robinson, the president of the SVGTU told SEARCHLIGHT as well that the membership of his union remain resolute in their position on the matter of mandatory vaccination.
Robinson disclosed that at a meeting of the SVGTU on Wednesday, teachers took the decision that if vaccination becomes mandatory, they will protest every week; and he is in full support of this decision.
“In fact, the union wrote to the Governor General and asked the Governor General not to assent to the bill. So, if she assents to the bill, the members are saying they’re going to protest. There may be other actions we can take but we have to go back to the membership to get a mandate so we know what else can be done,” the SVGTU president said.
A vote to continue industrial action was taken at both meetings. Both presidents also said their membership voted overwhelmingly to continue industrial action as they continue to be against mandatory vaccination for front-line workers.
SEARCHLIGHT understands that at the PSU meeting, 146 members voted in favour of continuing industrial action against the amended Public Health Act while only two members voted against.
At the SVGTU meeting, 75 members voted for the continuation of protests while nine voted against.
The amendment to the Public Health Act was successfully passed in Parliament sometime after 3a.m on Friday, August 6 in the absence of Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who was struck in the head with a projectile sustaining injury for which he travelled to Barbados to obtain a MRI.
Once a bill is successfully passed in the House of Assembly, it is then sent to the Governor General for royal assent.
When it receives royal assent, then it is sent to the Government Printery to be printed and gazetted, after which it will come into force according to the provision in the bill that will allow it to come into force.