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Some Union executives pushing own agenda

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28.NOV.08

EDITOR: I hate to disagree with my Union in public, but the barrage of attacks on the President of the SVGTU by the traditional Nice Radio anti-union choir and the back stabbing and manipulative actions of key elements on the Union’s Executive against her have forced me to do so.

I maintain my original position that the implementation of the R1 was not in keeping with the Consultant’s recommendation. However, following the impasse in January, the government has made the following concessions:{{more}}

(1) The Government brought forward the implementation of R2 from July 2009 to July 2008.This phase placed teachers in the recommended salary scales which was the Union’s original demand.

(2) Government decided to adjust the midpoint by 7% in 2008, instead of their original proposal of 3% in 2008 and 3% in 2009.

What has been the Union’s response?

Firstly, the Union’s claim that they have moved from 13% to 10% is bogus. The consultant noted that the national wage bill would increase by 13% over the 2004 wage bill with the implementation of R1. My interpretation of the report is that all the benchmark positions with similar scores or points were to be moved from where they were on the old salary scales to the new one. For example, the minimum salary for a qualified teacher in 2006 was $1,699. The new minimum for a similar teacher appointed in 2007 in salary band H (Grade 6) was to have been $2,161.That difference in pay between the teacher appointed in 2006 and the other appointed in 2007 would have been $462 and that accounts for the 13% adjustment in the national wage bill.

Secondly, the Union’s claim that the midpoint should be adjusted by 10% in keeping with the consultant’s recommendation is also flawed. The consultant recommended that for government to retain the integrity of the system it should adjust the midpoint of the salary band by the rate of inflation within a 20%, 15% and 20% spread. However, the consultant was very specific in that he recommended that government could make 100 % adjustment or a percentage thereof. My own position is that the Union, instead of fighting over the 3% difference, should have obtained from the government the commitment that an annual 7% adjustment to the midpoint would be made based on the rate of inflation annually, and this will be a component of the government’s Compensation Philosophy. That would have been more beneficial to teachers, public servants and the nation as a whole, than a fight over 3%.

I am simply appalled when a key individual like the General Secretary of the Union can state that the SVGTU will withdraw from NESDEC. The Union is not a member of NESDEC. The National Labour Congress is the organization that represents workers on NESDEC, so how can a union withdraw from an organization of which it is not a constituent part? We all are aware of who stated that they will disband from NESDEC. This position is not a union’s position and must, therefore, not be allowed to masquerade as one.

Certain key elements of the leadership placed so much premium on respect that I was shocked when a very senior official of the Ministry of Education informed me that:

(1) The Union never officially informed the Ministry that they were taking industrial action and;

(2) That the Union never officially asked for time off for teachers for the November 14th March and rally.

Is this a mistake, or a deliberate act on behalf of the responsible Union officials to ensure that the president looks bad in the eyes of the public, and provide more ammunition for Duggie and Candy Edwards against her? Respect does not operate as the rules governing a one way street.

Since 1975 the Union had fought for the establishment of a Teachers’ Service Commission. For the General Secretary to shut the door on this opportunity to establish a Teachers’ Service Commission through constitutional reform is a very backward position.

Our Union fought for over 50 years for the right to negotiate salaries. It appears that this current Executive spent more time chastising the Union’s president instead of working with her. They have forfeited that right and allowed the Government to legislate on salaries. This is an unpardonable sin, and if things get hard, I hope that teachers would place the blame squarely on these key elements in the Executive who appear to be pushing their own agenda instead of working in your best interest.

Clearly, if a warrior like Pa Jack can be told that the picket line is for teachers in the classroom, then the question has to be asked if this is really about reclassification, or is the Union being used to further individual interest, massage egos and advance a party’s agenda? It must be noted that members who are not in the classroom contribute in excess of $20,000 annually in dues and they have the same rights like any other member.

The time has come for the President to adhere to the constitution of the Union and make major policy pronouncements, if they are the Union’s position. Over 90% of the membership voted for you to provide leadership, it is time for you to lead from the front or resign.

From my standpoint, it is laughable when these same officials make the point that they are concerned about a pension for teachers. They seem to forget that the Union is an employer as well and that they should set the standards where workers pensions and other rights are concerned. This issue I will address in the fullness of time.

Denniston Douglas

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