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Union head blames media for contradictory responses to Government’s offer

Union head blames media for contradictory responses to Government’s offer

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The head of the teachers’ union has blamed the media for his contradictory responses to the Government’s offer to pay in December half the salary increase owed to public servants.{{more}}

The increase has been owed since January 2011 and Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves announced on October 26 that his government could only pay half of the three per cent.

But President of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union (SVGTU) Oswald Robinson told SEARCHLIGHT on October 29 that his union was still demanding the full payment.

“The membership took a decision that we needed three per cent by December, so that is the position of the Teachers’ Union,” he told SEARCHLIGHT.

He, however, said at a press conference on November 5 that the union was not demanding that the government pay the full three per cent and was not threatening industrial action.

SEARCHLIGHT reported both sets of comments in its editions of October 30 and November 6, respectively.

And a female member of the union asked Robinson about the comments at the union’s annual meeting last Wednesday.

“I was a bit confused when I read the SEARCHLIGHT newspaper of last week,” she said at the meeting at Thomas Saunders Secondary School in Kingstown.

“… I have the two papers at home and the one before was saying the president said we are demanding the three per cent, so I am a bit confused … I am a steward. I want to know what to tell people…” the union member further said.

Robinson responded:

“… You cannot follow what is written in the media. Because, when we had our press conference, I said the teachers took a decision in August that they need three per cent by December; the media reported that the Teachers’ Union is demanding three per cent.

“I responded to the very paper and I said we are just reasonable. We are not demanding anything … so it’s a matter of interpretation,” he further said.

Robinson told the meeting that at the press conference he “gave the media the figures from Grade K right up to Grade C” — a reference to the monetary value of the 1.5 per cent increase for teachers within each grade.

“And that was done, not by any politician; that was done by our treasurer,” he commented.

“When you listened the TV news, what they did? They bring all the minimum; they didn’t bring the maximum. We cannot allow the media and follow the media. They have their role; they have their bias…” Robinson said.

SEARCHLIGHT published each of the categories.

“Did the Teachers’ Union decide that they are going to have industrial action? Did you decide that? So I told the media the union has not considered industrial action. That was what was reported,” he further said of coverage of the press conference.

“… They asked: ‘Has the union decided it is going to take industrial action?’ I said ‘The union did not consider … but then the media reported what they want,” the union president further said.

But the questioner later called for unity within the union.

“We are a union and we have to try to keep the union together,” she said, adding that if the union does not stick by its decision, “people would think they can’t trust the union”.

She further said she agreed with Philbert John — who said the union should state a position, for the record — and called on the union to say if it would accept the government’s offer and on what conditions.

John also said Robinson was sounding like an apologist for the Government.

“Say something; say something strongly, although you know it would be paid,” the female union member urged.

“Say how you feel on it. I know we can’t say it because we don’t have a quorum, but should not just sit down and say nothing,” she added at the meeting, which was six persons short of the 60 persons required to make decisions.

The meeting was closed to the public, but a PA system was used, making the proceedings audible from outside, where SEARCHLIGHT took notes.

(kentonchance@searchlight.vc)

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