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SVGTU President threatens to strike again

SVGTU President  threatens to strike again

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President of St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU) Oswald Robinson has threatened to call his members out to strike again if principals are not paid their full allowances at the end of the year.

“The principals have not received their full amount of their end of year allowance since 2010. The Government has been robbing the principals $90 each year up to today. I hope this December they pay,{{more}} otherwise we gonna strike again!”

Addressing a small gathering of teachers last Friday at Heritage Square during the annual teachers solidarity rally, Robinson said that despite the contribution that former members of the Union have made, the struggle continues.

The Union head urged the Government to negotiate a new collective agreement.

According to Robinson, the last collective agreement with the Government was signed in 2005; however a collective agreement should only last two years.

Teachers were reminded of the Union’s history, beginning with their first strike in 1956, when they were paid considerably less than public servants, although equally qualified.

Their second strike came under the governance of Ebenezer Theodore Joshua in 1961.

“Ebenezer Theodore Joshua was the chief minister. He convinced his supporters that the strike was part of a plan to undermine Robert Milton Cato’s St Vincent Labour Party to destabilize his government. The membership of the union was then split; those supporting the Labour government continued their strike action until it became apparent that the strike had failed.”

However, the Union lived and continued to fight for its members.

The teachers’ solidarity march and rally is held annually to commemorate action taken by the State against teachers on November 14,1975 while they marched peacefully.

“The police emerged in riot style, armed with riot gear. Inspector Lewis unleashed on the teachers a barrage of tear gas and tear gas canisters. The march broke up and the teachers scattered,” Robinson read.

He remarked, “We must not be afraid as teachers to stand up for what is right and what is just.

“We have to stand up with our union; nobody else will stand up for us. The records are there to show.

“…Those who are taking too long should do some careful reflection and introspection and stand with your union.”

Since then teachers have held their solidarity march annually in remembrance of the action against them.

Robinson then highlighted the need for teachers to be their brother’s keeper.

“We cannot go publicly and pull down each other. You love your party more than the union when you do that and you need to repent of that,” reiterated Robinson.

According to Robinson, it is serious business, because they are in serious times, as teachers reflect on the past they are seeing many things recurring, hence, the trade union must continue to fight for its members.

Robinson said history shows that the Union emerged from a need to stand for each other, as from the period after emancipation in 1938, to the first two decades of the 20th century, the education system was almost totally controlled by the churches, particularly the Anglicans and the Methodists.

“Teachers were practically at the mercy of the clergy and prominent members of the church,” said Robinson, who noted that teachers were hired, fired and transferred by the churches.

He further acknowledged local historians in the ranks of the teaching profession, including headmaster of the St Vincent Grammar School Curtis King and deputy principal of the Central Leeward Secondary School Philbert John.

Robinson says that teachers give him the strength, motivation and determination to lead a great union.

Before the rally at which Robinson spoke, teachers marched from the Peace Memorial Hall, around Kingstown, ending at Heritage Square. The rally also heard solidarity messages from leaders of other cooperatives and trade unions, including Vincent Benjamin, Julian Jack and Joel Poyer.

In closing Robinson urged teachers to be mindful of their conduct during the election period.

“We are in the height of the election season; please conduct yourself in the best way. I can’t tell you who to vote for; that is your business, but use wisdom, vote for your union, vote the Teachers’ Union, stand up for the Teachers Union.”(AS)

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