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In solidarity with our teachers

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19.NOV.10

Vincentian teachers will today stage their ritual march to commemorate the 35th anniversary of a signal event in the history of their union. November 14, 1975 will forever be etched in the memory of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union as it marks the single biggest assault on their bid to exercise their right to collective bargaining.{{more}} That day is remembered as “tear gas Friday”, recalling the reaction of the then state administration to a peaceful demonstration by teachers in furtherance of their claim for collective bargaining status.

Sad as the event was, a lot of positives emerged out of that situation. The repressive action taken against the teachers, both during their historic strike leading up to the march, and immediately afterwards, had the effect of steeling the determination of teachers to pursue their long-sought goal. The union solidified as a result, transforming itself in the process into a bona fide trade union, capable of advancing the claims of its members and defending their interests.

The long, bitter days which followed the strike of 1975 severely tested the mettle of the leadership of the teachers. It helped however to provide a battle-hardened core of activists which was instrumental in the union being able to realize its goals after many years of struggle and sacrifice. Out of that experience too, came the realization of the need for a supportive social and economic arm. Thus was born the Teachers Credit Union, a household name today in the local and regional cooperative movement.

These developments gave the SVGTU a solid basis on which to move forward. It is no surprise therefore that in spite of all the challenges, the union was able to endure, to mature in its relations with successive governments, and, finally, not only to win formal recognition, but eventually achieve the goal of a formal collective agreement with government.

Over the past 35 years, the SVGTU has become one of the most vibrant and important institutions of working people in our country. Not only has it grown into a major force in the labour movement, but it has often played a pivotal role in keeping that movement together. The emergence of the National Labour Congress would have been inconceivable without the Teachers Union and it has continued to be one of the most active civil society organizations in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

As the Union commemorates its 1975 experiences, it has much of which to be proud. The long string of achievements is to its credit and to the trade union movement as a whole. Clearly, the sacrifices and inconveniences of 1975 have borne fruit. Many of today’s teachers were not even born then, but it is important that they become aware of those events and the pioneering role of the leaders of the 1975 generation. Those who so willingly played those roles must not be forgotten.

We join with the rest of the labour and social movements in saluting the SVGTU on this occasion.

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