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SVGTU distances itself from hecklers

SVGTU distances itself from hecklers


Senior officials of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU) and opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) have distanced themselves from persons who voiced their disapproval of trade unionist Joseph ‘Burns’ Bonadie at last Friday’s teachers’ march and rally.{{more}}

Union General Secretary Margaret Lewis-Jackson, when asked by SEARCHLIGHT if the persons who reacted in an unruly manner when Bonadie took the stage to speak were teachers or members of the Union, responded in the negative.

Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace, who was also present at the rally, stated that he did not know if the persons who were booing were supporters of his party.

“I don’t know who they are or who they are supporting.

“If you look around you will see that there are plenty people making noise,” Eustace commented. “I don’t know who they are.”

Coming close to the end of the annual Teachers’ Solidarity march and rally, which saw teachers and supporters walk from the Peace Memorial Hall to Heritage Square via Bay and Back Streets, it was announced that Bonadie, representing the Commercial, Technical and Allied Workers Union (CTAWU) , would bring a message of solidarity from his Union to the teachers.

This announcement was met with jeers and shouts of ‘No Burns!’ from sections of the crowd, which was made up of teachers and others showing solidarity to the Union at their annual march. The crowd also included supporters of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), and the three teachers who resigned their jobs in the public service to contest the December 13, 2010 general elections on an NDP ticket, and being unsuccessful in their election bids, are seeking reinstatement.

The uproar was silenced for a moment as those protesting Bonadie’s appearance made way for a cultural performance, but resumed when the veteran trade unionist took the stage.

He denounced the behaviour of his hecklers as unacceptable.

“Last year, I was your guest speaker. Last year and the year before, I was here with you; there is no one in St. Vincent and the Grenadines active in the labour movement who was here in 1975. I was here.”

President of the Union Ronald Clarke interjected on Bonadie’s behalf, calling for persons to show respect for the Union and allow the speaker to continue his address.

As Bonadie resumed his solidarity message, he indicated that he was fully in support of the teachers and their struggle, as he had been in the past.

“I received tear gas and settled the teachers strike in 1975; I’m no stranger to the teachers of this country…. I am no ‘Johnny come lately’ when it comes to the teachers of this country.

“The teachers of this country have contributed more to the political development of St. Vincent and the Grenadines than any other class of people.”

According to Bonadie, one of the major laws of collective bargaining is knowing the spirit and intention surrounding the exercise, and he made the call like other speakers before him, to keep political affiliation out of the trade union movement.

“That is why I am here to bring solidarity to you the teachers from the CTAWU, to say to you that we’re always there with you and we will continue to support you in your aspirations to get what is right for workers of this country.

“I want to say do not allow Mike Browne and Yvonne Francis Gibson and the others who would have been put in prison in Calliaqua; do not allow that to be in vain.

“….And I am saying to you that the collective agreement signed between government and the teachers must be honored.”

The evening ended in as controversial a manner as it started.

Earlier that day, some persons participating in the march refused to follow the lead vehicle, because it carried a sticker which showed support for the Unity Labour Party.