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Browne resigns from SVGTU after what she calls ‘betrayal’

Browne resigns from SVGTU after what she calls  ‘betrayal’

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Never did Joye Browne imagine that there would come a day when she would no longer want to be associated with the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union (SVGTU).

Browne, a former president of the trade union, told SEARCHLIGHT on Tuesday that after almost 41 years of membership, she resigned{{more}} from the organization, effective September 30, 2016 on a matter of principle.

The retired educator said after having reprepresented the SVGTU on the Board of Governors of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Community College (SVGCC) since it was constituted over 10 years ago, she was removed as the Union’s representative without being informed.

She stated that a few weeks ago, at the start of the new school year, she discovered, quite by accident, that she had been replaced.

“I had phoned [the SVGCC] the day before the expected date of meeting to confirm the date of the meeting, only to be told that the meeting was in progress and there was a representative of the Teachers’ Union at the meeting.

“…I got no information from the Teachers’ Union to say my services were no longer required and this is how I learned that I was replaced….

“I feel indignant over the treatment. I feel it is disrespectful and it also confirms in my mind the deterioration of the Teachers’ Union,” said the former SVGTU president, who served three consecutive two-year terms at the helm of the organization from 1986 to 1992.

Browne said even after she resigned, no one from the executive of the SVGTU contacted her, neither has she reached out to them.

She said she did not see this move by the Union coming, nor does she know their reasons for replacing her. She, however, admits that she has been “a bit delinquent” in reporting to the SVGTU in relation to her tenure on the SVGCC board.

“They insisted that I report…,” Browne said, but admitted that this was “a bit difficult.”

She explained that although she reported occasionally, she did not do so with consistency because she had been required to take an oath of secrecy when she began serving on the SVGCC board and she was prohibited from passing on the minutes [of the SVGCC] to the SVGTU.

“I did, however, request that the … director [of the SVGCC] put together something for public consumption which could have been passed on….”

Browne said she is looking on in dismay at what she considers the deterioration of the Union to which she gave over four decades of service, having joined during the teachers’ strike in 1975.

Under Browne’s tenure as president, the Union was able to get legislation passed to allow teachers to have two months maternity leave and an optional third month off without pay. Prior to that, if an unmarried teacher became pregnant, she was required to resign her job, once it became apparent that she was pregnant.

“We had to be confronted with a lot of tears from teachers who found themselves in this situation. This is what gave us our drive to do something about it. We campaigned and campaigned, then we got the Ministry [of Education] to go with us. That was the prototype for collective agreement negotiations for the Union with government,” Browne declared.

In addition to service, Browne said she almost gave her life for the SVGTU.

In October 1984, while driving home after an event held by the Union in Mesopotamia to raise funds to facilitate overseas medical treatment for Godfrey Gilbert, a member of the Union, Browne crashed into a lamp-post on Grenville Street in Kingstown, sustaining serious injuries to her chest and leg.

“I came within an inch of my life, doing the work of the Union. Pushing my body beyond limit and there is never any consideration of that, never, never,” she lamented.

She also disagrees with many of the recent positions taken by the Union.

“If you look at the positions adopted by the Union, they are very much, by and large … confrontational, rather than collaborative, with the Ministry and there is this ‘socking it to the Ministry’ attitude that has been adopted,” she opined.

Browne is also disturbed by the Union’s silence on the harrassment being meted out to supervisor of elections Sylvia Findlay, a former executive officer of the SVGTU. She said she suspects that because she came out in public support of Findlay, that may not have sat too well with some members of the current executive.

SEARCHLIGHT spoke with president of the SVGTU Oswald Robinson, who said that the fact that Browne was not written to was an oversight on the part of the outgoing general secretary.

“The Union took a decision to write to her to thank her for her service and to replace her with another person. The outgoing general secretary did not follow through in writing to her. But if she didn’t receive that letter from us, she could have written to us, because it is an in-house matter; it is not something for the public domain,” he said on Tuesday.

Although stating that the SVGTU did not have a problem with Browne’s representation on the Board of the SVGCC, he raised the issue of reporting.

“If you are representing us on a Board, you are supposed to be reporting to us and I don’t know if there is any record from her in terms of her stewardship. If we put you on a board to represent us, you are supposed to send periodic reports to us on the meetings you are going to.

“What I am saying is a decision was taken long ago to replace her with somebody else. It had nothing to do with any problem or anything, we just wanted to give somebody else the exposure and opportunity to serve on the board,” Robinson said.

The president, however, said that Browne should have lodged her grievance with the Union, instead of resigning without giving a reason and speaking to other people and the media.

“As a person who has been in the leadership of the Union, you should write the Union, and lodge your grievance and we will take it from there. Because we are all human beings and sometimes there are shortcomings…. She should have communicated with us and we would have known that she did not receive the letter.”

He, however, assured that Browne will be written to.

“Yes, we will write to her. It is really unfortunate that she did not get that letter.”

In response to a comment by SEARCHLIGHT that Browne is hurt that as a pillar of the Union, she was treated with such scant regard, Robinson said “A lot of the people who claim to be pillars of the Union are fighting against the same Union right now.”

Browne, however, maintains that her resignation was a matter of principle.

“It pains me, it pains me tremendously to have to resort to something like this, because I love the Union, I have struggled hard for it, I believe in its purposes and I think that the Union has a lot to contribute to social society. Because you are dealing with teachers and the role they have to play…. I feel betrayed by the direction it is taking. My resignation is a matter of principle,” she said.

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