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Strike was ‘a monumental failure’ – Gonsalves

Strike was ‘a monumental failure’ – Gonsalves


Dr Ralph Gonsalves has described as “a monumental failure,” the industrial action taken Tuesday by the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU) and the Public Service Union (PSU).{{more}}

He further rubbished claims by the SVGTU that 40 per cent of teachers stayed off the job.

“The strike was a monumental failure. Over 80 per cent of the teachers turned out to work…. Insofar as the PSU is concerned, I don’t know if anybody stayed away other than the odd person here and there, who would normally not come to work for one reason or another in a normal situation,” Gonsalves told SEARCHLIGHT in an interview on Tuesday.

SVGTU president Oswald Robinson, on Tuesday, said that 40 per cent of teachers did not report for duty and said the strike was a success.

“Oswald Robinson pulled a number out of the sky, but it is very interesting that you having a strike, even on his number, that less than half of your teachers stayed away.

“Even on his number and you call that successful? But the fact is this, it is way below 20 per cent stayed away and over 80 per cent went to school,” Gonsalves said, adding that persons in the civil service attended work, along with nurses and police.

Gonsalves said he hopes public servants and teachers recognize that Tuesday’s industrial action was “a strike in absurdity.”

He also noted that the Government, the unions’ employer, was never notified of the strike action, which he should be a normal courtesy in industrial relations.

“They haven’t sent any letter; I haven’t seen any letter; certainly, I haven’t received any…”

Gonsalves thanked the teachers and public servants for turning out to work.

He reiterated that his doors are open for the unions to hold further discussions the matter, but in the meantime, noted that he has a government to run.

The Prime Minister also added that the existing leaderships in the PSU and SVGTU have problems.

“In the case of Oswald Robinson, of the 10 teachers at his school in Gomea, seven of them went to work. I don’t know if the other three actually stayed away because of the strike, or if any of them went to any workshop or was sick,” he said.

“… But the teachers, by and large, overwhelmingly did not respond to the union on this matter. So they have some real problems, but the Government is open for discussion,” Gonsalves said, adding that he had met with the unions in July, informing them a further meeting could be held in October on the matter, which they rejected.

Gonsalves has made it clear that his government cannot meet the unions’ demand to give to teachers and public servants a one-month tax-free salary that will cost the Government EC$25 million.

“It’s out of the ball park completely… they are not realistic with people in their union and they are not realistic about the payment of EC$25 million.

“I told them that the forecast is that we will probably get three per cent growth and I expect the revenues to grow a little more and then we’ll talk about an increase next year and in the meantime, I will see what the best I can do.”

Gonsalves said the union has now put themselves in a terrible position, adding that the SVGTU was relying on the history of union, where teachers showed solidarity with the organization.

“They were hiding from their members. They had a meeting. Their meeting was during professional development week. They had fewer than 60 people at the meeting. Remember in this country you have nearly 1,700 members of the teaching fraternity and of course, not all of them are members of the union for one reason or the other, but I would expect that the SVGTU would have a membership of over 1,000.

“Why didn’t they call a general meeting, a lot of their members are asking, to get the view of the members of the union.”