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Teachers should not take their gains for granted


Tue Nov 18, 2014

For yet another year, the turnout at the annual Teachers’ Solidarity March and Rally last Friday was disappointing, to say the least.

Given that the approximately 1,500 teachers on the government roll were given a half holiday by the Ministry of Education to attend this annual expression of teacher solidarity, brotherhood and strength, last Friday’s showing of fewer than 200 teachers, although better than some past years, was poor.{{more}}

Next year will be 40 years since the events of November 14, 1975, when striking teachers were tear gassed while marching for their rights in Kingstown. The demands of the teachers back then were for better working conditions, a long overdue backpay, a salary revision, repeal of the 1971 Public Service Act and demands for a Collective Agreement.

The working conditions and salaries of teachers, and workers in general, have improved significantly since 1975, but there is still much room for improvement. President of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU) Oswald Robinson, while addressing last Friday’s rally, said among the serious issues that teachers still have to address are large class sizes, working conditions, pensions and salaries — reminiscent of the grievances of 1975.

These are hard times all over the world for governments and workers alike, but the brunt of the world economic crisis is being borne by the workers. Even though some of the world’s larger economies are showing signs of improvement, small developing countries like St Vincent and the Grenadines are still reeling from the impact of the world economic crisis.

This therefore means that if teachers want to be taken seriously when making demands for a bigger share of the scarce resources

of this country, they must demonstrate to policy makers that they stand 100 per cent behind their union, by being physically present and counted at the most important day on the calendar of the SVGTU.

In the aftermath of the strike of 1975, some teachers were arrested and charged, eighteen teachers were dismissed from the government service and many others were transferred as a means of punishment.

Teachers of today should not take the hard won gains they now enjoy for granted, nor should they put further advancement in jeopardy by an attitude of lethargy or complacency.