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It’s us, not Gov’t! – Union official

It’s us, not Gov’t!  – Union official

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The recent announcement by Government that 100 graduate teachers will be appointed in January, 2018, and others over a period of time, is as a result of work done by the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU).

Otto Sam, the Union’s Industrial Relations and Research officer made this declaration on Tuesday, at a press briefing at the Union’s headquarters at McKie’s Hill.

According to Sam, the Government wants to appear as though they are appointing the graduate teachers out of the goodness of their heart, but it is the Union’s recent work that has forced the appointments.

The Industrial Rela-tions officer said the State was forced to act because the SVGTU had informed the Government of their intention to go to court.

“Just last week, out of interviews and interactions, some affidavits were beginning to be shaped and sent to the general secretary to the Union’s attorney to move to court. So, as a result of that, you have the State being forced to jump,” Sam said.

He said the Government knew that the Union’s case was very strong and if the agreement between the SVGTU and the Government was not honoured, the Government would have had to pay millions in compensation to the teachers.

Sam alluded to Article 26.2 of the Collective Agreement between both parties, which says “An employee shall be appointed to a position commensurate with his/her qualifications within reasonable time of the completion of his/her studies provided that the Ministry of Education has approved such studies and the employee is qualified for appointment or promotion, in accordance to PSC regulations.”

He also urged teachers not to believe that it is the Government which is willingly appointing graduate teachers.

Sam said if teachers are not mindful, they will begin to think that the Union is irrelevant and they will take away their membership in the Union, leaving themselves open to being trampled upon by the State.

“… then the State can trample because the State has never been kind to workers, be it tear gas, victimization, no salary…,” Sam declared.

Despite the appointment of some graduate teachers, beginning January 2018, the Union is drawing attention to those graduate teachers who have already retired without being appointed. He said the SVGTU will take that matter to court.

“The Union has already instructed its attorney and the attorney is in the process of preparing to file documents so that we can go to court,… their unfair treatment should not go unchallenged.”

On October 27, during his Independence address to the nation, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves announced that some 100 graduate teachers who graduated from university up to and including 2012, but have not yet been appointed, will be appointed from January 1, 2018. He also said other teachers who graduated after 2013, but have not been appointed to the grade of graduate teacher, will be so appointed over the next three years.

Gonsalves said the delay in making the appointments was because the ‘Education Revolution’ had been so successful in facilitating teachers to obtain university education that a problem developed, wherein there were insufficient graduate teacher posts available.

The SVGTU said other issues they are fighting include the long wait for some teachers to begin receiving pensions after retirement; unfair appointments of principals; low pay grade teachers being taxed; vacation leave as stated in the Collective Agreement not being honoured; and unpaid duty allowances for special needs teachers, to name a few.

President of the SVGTU Oswald Robinson said the workload of the teachers has increased, which is why the union is pushing for the agreed vacation leave.

“Teachers have to interface with sometimes 100 plus students, and when you go home, you have your family to deal with, and you have your books to mark…. You have to do a lot of these things on your family time. A number of secondary school [teachers] today, during vacation, they still have to go back and have classes,” Robinson said.

The president said the SVGTU, along with the Public Service Union, last January made a joint proposal to the Government to begin negotiations on duty allowances, concessions and tax exemptions for certain teachers.

During Tuesday’s press briefing, plans for Teachers’ Solidarity Week were also announced.(CB)

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