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My door remains open to unions – PM Gonsalves

My door remains open to unions – PM Gonsalves


The door of the Prime Minister remains open to teachers and public servants, should they decide they want to meet with him.

“If they wah come and talk to me tomorrow (Monday). I would clear my calendar and talk to them, If they wah come and talk to me on Tuesday, I will talk to them. Wednesday, I have Cabinet, so they could talk to me Wednesday night… They will be pushing an open door and I would explain everything, {{more}}how everything is happening and say how I intend to proceed,” Gonsalves told a large crowd at a United Labour Party (ULP) rally at Vermont Sunday night.

The St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU) and the Public Service Union (PSU) gave notice last week of their intention to strike today, October 13.

“You can’t call a strike without coming to your employer and say ‘this is what I’m doing; let us have a talk before we do this,’” Gonsalves told supporters.

“I accept they have shown forbearance over the last four years,” he said, adding that forbearance must, however, be coupled with understanding and he strongly believes that in coming to this understanding, the majority of teachers have decided not to strike.

“I don’t intend to have any quarrel with them,” he said.

“I happen to know that the vast amount of teachers and public servants are not going to go out on any strike on Tuesday.”

The Prime Minister said there had been no meeting of public servants or teachers and appealed to those who intended to strike, saying it was not too late to change their minds.

“Please, there is time still to pull back… Don’t create difficulties where there are none.

“I don’t have anything against the teachers or the public servants…I am saying they have done well since 2001; it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t get something more, but what they ask for, $25 million one time, ah can’t afford it.”

He said if he complies with their demand, he would then in turn have to make cuts in public assistance, the YES programme and SET programme, among other things.

“Everything has to be in a balance,” he stated.

Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, said there were some who were being selfish.

“Don’t use your own personal agenda against the interest of the parents, the children, the rest of the teachers and the community for your own selfish advancement,” Gonsalves asserted to his spirited supporters, whose cheers in support of the ULP were heard across the area.

“I want my good friends in the Teachers Union and the Public Service Union not to go on strike on Tuesday… and the parents must send their children to school,” Gonsalves said, while appealing to minibus drivers to transport the parents, teachers and children.

The SVGTU and PSU are taking industrial action today, Tuesday, “due to the further delay of the one-month tax free salary in lieu of no salary increase for the past four years.”

Both unions have also appealed for parents/guardians to keep their children/wards at home today.

The Ministry of Education said in a release that regular school activities will continue as usual today (See story above).(AS)