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Teachers week- Recalling the sacrifice



This week the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU) once more organized activities to mark Teachers Week. As has happened every year since the historic Teachers Strike of November 1975, whilst focusing on the professional responsibilities of the teachers in today’s environment, the Union continues to remember the events surrounding the industrial action of 32 years ago, and “Tear Gas Friday,” November 14th 1975, in particular.{{more}}

It is heartening to note that the Union has not forgotten its roots or the valiant sacrifices which made it into the force that it has become in our society. Too often, organizations and individuals alike, forget their humble past and the contributions of those who suffered the pain to lay the foundations on which success is built. The SVGTU is not the only trade union which had to endure suffering and hardship in order to advance, not the only one whose history is marked with a struggle against repression and attempts to deny the legitimate rights of workers. It is the only one, locally, however, to keep those events firmly in focus and to remind those who have benefitted from the labours of others of the Union’s glorious history.

The vast majority of teachers today were not teaching in 1975 but they cannot claim not to have heard, even vaguely, of the Teachers Strike of that year. They may not know verse and chapter, but at least they are made aware by the efforts of the Union. This is a leaf that other unions and organizations would do well to borrow out of the book of the SVGTU. It is because of this disconnect with our history that most workers are today blissfully unaware of the significance of May Day, International Workers day.

Such milestones in our history must never be left to fade into oblivion. They are part and parcel of our social and historic landscape. The benefits of those sacrifices are there for all to see – trade union recognition, improved wages, salaries and working conditions, the right to collective bargaining and the freedom of assembly. These were key to the Teachers’ demands of 1975 which led to strike which was met with repressive tactics. When teachers today enjoy those benefits, when they collect their Christmas “goodies” as a result of protracted bargaining with the government, those who paid the price in 1975 must always be remembered.

Congrats to the SVGTU!