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A significant achievement by our teachers

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Tue, Nov 8. 2011

Congratulations are in order to the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Cooperative Credit Union and its parent body, the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union for the construction of the Credit Union’s new EC$7 million headquarters, officially opened two weekends ago.{{more}}

The impressive edifice represents not just another physical accomplishment by a civic organisation, but a milestone in the history of the social movement in our country.

There is a story behind this achievement which makes it all the more significant, and which needs to be told so that future generations gain a proper appreciation of what led up to this landmark. It is a story born out of the struggles of our working people, which gave rise to the cooperative credit union movement as a form of social and economic organisation. The Teachers’ Credit Union stands proudly, having etched itself in the history of the local movement.

However, there is more, far more, to this story than the building of a successful credit union. This particular one is deeply rooted in the struggle for trade union recognition and the rights of workers. It is a direct result of the noble efforts of those teachers who sacrificed their careers and livelihood to stand up for the rights of workers during the unforgettable teachers’ strike of 1975. The timing of the official opening of the new building coincides with the eve of the 36th anniversary of that strike which began on November 1 of that year.

The government of the day did not take kindly to that course of action by the nation’s teachers. It was met with ferocious hostility by the then Labour Party government. The teachers’ strike is best remembered for the “Tear Gas Friday,” when police tear-gassed teachers and their supporters while they were staging a peaceful march.

But even worse injustices were to follow, as the strike ended in wholesale victimisation of the leadership of the union. Some were inconvenienced by transfers far away from their places of residence, others faced court charges, but by far the worst aspect was the deprival of the livelihood of many teachers, dismissed for their heroic stance for workers’ rights.

Those dismissals cruelly exposed the limitations of the teachers’ movement in being able to cater for the needs of its members or to assist them in time of financial difficulty. It led to a search for some form of organisation which could provide relief from distress. That, broadly speaking, led to the establishment of the Credit Union. The teachers have not looked back since then, nor regretted the formation of the Credit Union.

Today the Teachers’ Cooperative Credit Union stands as a proud legacy of the contribution of the teachers towards socio-economic development in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It has become a gangplank for the advancement of not only teachers and their immediate families, but the working people in general and a formidable social and economic institution in its own right.

SEARCHLIGHT warmly congratulates the SVGTCCU on its accomplishment and wishes it every success in future endeavours.

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