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Is the Teachers’ Union being misled again?

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06.FEB.09

EDITOR: The current leadership of the SVG Teachers’ Union seems to be misleading their members again. Having erred late last year, in refusing to meet the government’s negotiators on salary increases, and the Prime Minister on wider employment, training and other educational issues, the Union is now taking another tack in addressing what it considers to be residual issues regarding the re-classification exercise.{{more}}

According to what the Union said recently on television, it is preparing a document to be sent to the Governor General for his consideration, in respect of appointing a tribunal under the Trades Dispute (arbitration and inquiry) Act of 1941.

Surely, if they had considered a half decent lawyer, they would realize that this is a waste of time.

First of all, section 4 of the Act makes it clear that if the Act applies, both parties must consent before the Governor-General can refer a “trade dispute” to an arbitration tribunal. To the best of my knowledge, the government has not indicated this.

Secondly, the Act does not apply, since the teachers and public servants are not under a contract with an employer. Teachers and public servants are not employed through a contract system; their employment is based on an entirely different legal regime.

There may well be other legal reasons why the Act does not apply. In any case, the Union’s Executive, as intelligent as they are, must recognize that since Independence, whenever you see the expression “Governor-General” in any Act, it really means “The Cabinet”. SVG is no longer a colony, and the powers of the Governor-General are enshrined in the Constitution. The Governor-General functions as a ceremonial head of state.

Maybe the Union should pause and consider what is happening in the real world. The current economic crisis makes the demands of the Union very unreasonable. As the Prime Minister has pointed out, the salary bill for public servants, including teachers, was almost $10 million, and this was more than the 2006 figure. The bill for 2008 is more than $10 million, and the bulk of this increase came through reclassification.

Surely, the Union must be clear as to what they are about, and don’t pull the wool over the eyes of its members.

Bernadette Thompson

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