Avoid ‘pappy show’ politics – UWI Professor
Dr Tennyson Joseph, head of the Department of Government, Sociology and Social Work, issued this caution as he delivered the feature address at the SVGTUâs 19th biennial convention last Tuesday at Frenches House.
“We are indeed in the era of political âpappy showâ, and the best advice that I can leave to the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachersâ Union is that it should extricate itself, and stay above and beyond the politics of âpappy showâ. You are Caribbean teachers, and you are amongst the better-educated cohort of your profession,â urged Joseph.
“There is no reason why a Teachersâ Union should make itself captive of the politics of divisionâ¦ Instead, you should be preparing the nation for the new politics and a new model of political engagement that map you out as the intellectual leaders of your society.â
He added: “A man cannot serve two masters. The trade union cannot serve its members and the political party at the same time. So, in this regard, one of the strongest recommendations that I would like to leave with you today is that you should seek to break, definitively and decisively and as urgently as possible, your historical links with the political partiesâ¦ I urge you to fight valiantly for what has been promised to you, and that you will insist upon its equal and level implementation, since it can easily be used as a tool for further victimization, rather than as a tool for equalization.â
Despite the warning, Joseph said that by virtue of being a trade union, the SVGTU is a political organization and, therefore, cannot avoid becoming involved in the “ubiquitous activityâ of such.
“The only non-political action I know [of] is masturbation because itâs the only thing that you do not require somebodyâs consent to engage in. As long as you need somebody elseâs consent to engage in something, then you are engaged in a political moment.â
During his feature address, Joseph went on to express “deep concernâ for the condition of the Caribbean Workers Movement at present â lamenting that within the region trade unions are increasingly becoming viewed as “obsolete and backways relics of a past age.â
He also opined that it is of great concern that a significant portion of persons who hold this view are those with university degrees, whose work influences policy-making within the public sector.
“As governments face greater and greater challenges in managing their economies, spending on social services and areas such as education is drastically reduced; teachers are asked to hold [off] on salary increases; and conditions of work continue to deteriorate, as you are asked to do more with less.â
Furthermore, Joseph said that unfair pressures are increasingly being placed on teachers, more so than most other professions.
“Of all the categories of employment in our societies, teachers are amongst the most exploited. In fact, if you were to find a profession which was nearest to slavery in terms of the totalizing nature of the job, its absorption of every aspect of the human make-upâ¦ one would have to settle for the teaching professionâ¦
“Itâs an exploitative situation, and I think our trade unions need to include that when they agitate for better pay and better conditions for workers.â
Also delivering remarks was president of the SVGTU Oswald Robinson, who was recently re-elected to head the organization for another two-year term.
Focusing on the conventionâs theme of âCommitment and loyalty to your Trade Union: the gateway to a brighter futureâ, Robinson insisted that commitment and loyalty must become part of membersâ psyches in order to ensure a brighter future for all.
“The question I want us to reflect on â how committed and loyal am I? Each of us must ask that questionâ¦
“Commitment and loyalty must be part of our psyche. This is something that must motivate us, must propel us to respond when the trade union calls for action; otherwise it makes no sense we have a union.â
Robinson asserted that despite there being some who work against the SVGTU, this does not diminish the unionâs quest to provide quality learning and teaching for the entire nation.
“My grandmother sayâ¦ that every day the bucket goes to the well, one day the bottom go drop out. Now is the opportunity â we have to strike now while the iron is hotâ¦ If we fail to do that, we will do an injustice to the future generations. So, we have to lay the platform now for them so that they will embrace this great organization â they will not hesitate to jump on board and continue to build on the legacies which have already been established by those who have toiled for this great organization.â
Teachersâ strike in October 2015
Robinson said that the SVGTU has done its own analysis of the general strike held last October, and has concluded that it demonstrates a “greater need for commitment and loyalty to our union.â
“Every time there is a teachersâ strike, the Government â and Iâm not talking about the current administration now, because when you say âgovernmentâ, some people jump on Facebook and attack you â has a legacy of attacking the leadership of the unionâ¦ In Cato days, in Joshua days, it happenedâ¦ They try this divide and rule to mash up the union,â he asserted.
“Every time the union takes a decision to advocate and agitate for socio-economic justice, the politicians take it publicly and make it a political issue. And some of us follow suit. Instead of standing with our union, we attacking the leadership.â
Robinson insisted that the leadership had withstood the test of the October 2015 strike, and had emerged as “fine goldâ.
“You have the power to effect the change, and you have to do it with all your might, regardless to who would be vexed with you.â
Still issues to be tackled
In spite of strides made by the SVGTU, the organizationâs president pointed out that there are still challenges to be tackled, which include discrepancies regarding the Collective Agreement (2005) signed with the Government, short payment of âhard areaâ allowances, and issues relating to promotion of teachers and graduates.
“Let us put our individual differences aside; let us focus and remain committed and loyal. This is our union, this is our voice!â
During the convention, solidarity messages from around the region were delivered by Margaret Lewis-Jackson, outgoing SVGTU general secretary.
Brief remarks were also given by representative from the Ministry of Education Dickson Findlay and SVGTU public relations officer Wendy Bynoe, among others. (JSV)