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Something is in the mortar beside the pestle. That is the message coming from the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU) which is seeing red about a proposed New Education Bill which is to be discussed between the organization and government.

In a release to the media on Wednesday, June 15, President of the SVGTU, Otto Sam, stated that just the day before, the Union had received a copy of the New Education Bill from the Clerk of the House of Assembly, inviting the union to a Select Committee of Parliament on Thursday, June 16, 2005 at 9 a.m.{{more}}

Sam said a preliminary examination of the document revealed that the New. Education Act was anti-SVGTU. He noted that the proposed Act had reversed a number of gains made by teachers from decades of struggles.

One that he pointed to related to maternity leave. The trade union president pointed out that the three months maternity leave which teachers now have would be reduced to one month.

Another vexing issue was a proposal that teachers be fined $2,000 for administering corporal punishment.

Sam said that according to the new proposals, teachers would no longer be able to accumulate vacation leave and that most of the leave provisions under the present agreement had been eliminated.

He added that, the authority of the Principal, as given in Act 29 of 1992 has been usurped and severely

eroded. This could cause chaos Sam asserts.

Sam said the proposed Act does not recognize the Union. He said the Union’s main roles or functions were nowhere mentioned in the Act.

“This seems to be very consistent with the recent sidelining of the SVGTU. Its exclusion from key education events, the unwillingness of government to meet to discuss the fourth Collective Agreement and the regular procrastination on the present Collective Agreement by the government’s team are evidence of this attempt to nullify the SVGTU,” Sam expressed.

He said the Union had asked that discussion on the bill be halted until the Union is properly consulted and allowed to contribute to it.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, speaking from Dominica where he was attending an OECS Heads of Government caucas, spoke to SEARCHLIGHT Wednesday to clarify government’s position on the issue. He said the Bill was an overall bill that was up for discussions.

Dr. Gonsalves said his administration did not intend to take away teachers’ privileges.

“There are things in the Bill which I myself have questions with,” said the Prime Minister. He said the fact that the Teachers Union had been invited to the table to discuss the draft was an indication that

“we are not going to take away privileges”.

“Proposals are on the table. You can’t take away benefits that they have. It’s unconstitutional to do so,” the Prime Minister said, “It a discussion.”

The Executive of the Union met yesterday to analyze the Act and was expected to decide how to proceed on the issue.