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SVGTU President: Minister’s sentiments hypocritical

SVGTU President: Minister’s sentiments hypocritical

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President of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union (SVGTU) Ronald Clarke says he will not apologize for referring to Minister of Housing Clayton Burgin as hypocritical, following a statement made by Burgin concerning the rehiring of three teachers who contested the 2010 General Elections.{{more}}

Clarke, addressing reporters at the SVGTU headquarters on Monday, November 8, drew their attention to an article in the SEARCHLIGHT Weekend issue of Friday, October 3, 2011.

The article quotes Burgin as saying he maintains his position that the teachers who ran for elections on an Opposition New Democratic Party ticket should not be rehired by Government.

The three teachers in question: Elvis Daniel, Addison “Bash” Thomas and Kenroy Johnson resigned their positions to contest the General Elections of December 13, 2010. They were not rehired after being unsuccessful in the elections.

Article 16 of the SVGTU’s Collective Bargaining Agreement pertains to Election Leave, and states: “A member of the Union of at least three years’ standing shall on application be granted leave-of-absence to contest National/General/Local Elections. The leave of Absence shall be no pay leave for a period not exceeding six months. In the event that the member is unsuccessful, that member shall return to his/her original post or one of equivalent status, all benefits intact. The resumption of duty must be at the beginning of a school term.”

“I want to believe that when this (collective bargaining) agreement was negotiated and when it was signed, it was done in

good faith. To hear this type of sentiment expressed by the honourable minister at this time, in relation to this issue, is most disturbing and I think hypocritical and I use that expression without no apology!” Clarke stated.

Clarke noted that the Collective Agreement, signed in 2005, bears the signatures of ministers of government, including Clayton Burgin. He posed a question to Burgin: “When he signed this collective agreement, was it done in good faith or was it just done because…” Clarke said.

The article further quotes Burgin as stating “If he [Elvis Daniel] so loving and caring about those children, that on the 13th [Decemer 2010] he gave them up; leave them there and run for politics.”

Responding to this statement, Clarke said that the minister, upon signing the agreement, facilitated Daniel’s abandonment of the students. “Here we have the honourable minister signing this agreement. Included in this agreement, the issue of election leave for teachers, and to suggest that these persons would have more or less abandoned the children to get into politics, I am saying that the honourable minister in affixing his signature to this document, would have facilitated the process,” Clarke said.

Clarke added that the statement made by Burgin is a backward step for a government who boasts about being a progressive one.

“…a government which claims to be very progressive. This statement is retrogressive to say the least. It is a backward step. This is not encouraging our teachers or our citizens to strive for the greatest ideals, and I’m very upset!”

Clarke further called on persons to see past party colours and to empathize with the teachers who have families to take care of. He further appealed to Burgin as a former teacher to empathize with the teachers.

“I’m asking you to search within your soul, see yourself in these teachers position, and I’m going to ask you to retract that statement,” Clarke said.

Clarke, visibly upset, added that members of the public seem to be making monsters out of the teachers. “I’ve listened to some talk show hosts, I’ve listened to some radio programs and I try not to get involved because I may say something that I ought not to say, because sometimes it hurts.”

Clarke, noting that Article 16 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement does not address the resignation of teachers, said that the teachers were too far along in the process of registering as candidates for the general elections to turn back when they realised they would have to resign to contest the general elections.

The Collective Agreement notwithstanding, Section 26 of the Constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines disqualifies public officers from being elected as a representative or nominated as a Senator.

Clarke added that the teachers were of the opinion that they would have been granted election leave and would have been able to go back to the classroom, if they were unsuccessful in the elections.

Also addressing the media was Addison Thomas, one of the affected teachers, who said that being unemployed has affected him “seriously”.

He stated that he has received support from his family and friends and the New Democratic Party. Thomas, who stated that he has been a teacher since 1980, appealed to government officials to rehire him and the other two teachers.

Thomas stated that he, Daniel and Johnson are qualified teachers with years of experience, and added that he cannot understand why they have not been rehired. Thomas added that when they reapplied for their jobs, they were told there were no vacancies at that time. He, however, stated that teachers were hired in September this year.

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