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Minister Burgin, teachers are being discriminated against!

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01.APR.11

Editor: Honourable Clayton Burgin, Minister of Housing Informal Human Settlements, Physical Planning, Lands and Surveys…, has echoed the discriminatory policy of his government and Prime Minister, when Searchlight of March, 22, 2011, quotes him as saying: “I find it difficult to understand why after criticizing the Education Revolution, three teachers who contested the General Elections on a New Democratic Party (NDP) ticket are asking that they be re-employed.”{{more}} Isn’t Minister Burgin saying “if you criticise the government you must suffer …?

I just want to remind the Honourable Minister that his comments are not just evil, vindictive, bad and dangerous, they are unconstitutional! The constitution clearly states that there must be no discrimination based on colour, creed, location, opinion, association etc.

Minister Burgin also needs to be reminded that Article 16 of the Collective Agreement, signed by him as Minister of Education and Dr the Honourable Ralph E. Gonsalves, Prime Minister, says: “A member of the union (Teachers’ Union) of at least three (3) years standing shall on application be granted leave-of-absence to contest National/General/Local Elections. … In the event that the member is unsuccessful, that member shall return to his/her original post or one of equivalent status, all benefits intact. The resumption of duties must be at the beginning of a school term.” That’s Article 16 of the 2005 Agreement, Minister Burgin!

Editor, the Article is cognizant of the fact that teachers will aspire to the highest offices in the state, but may be unsuccessful at times. Hence, it was deliberately fashioned with that in mind. It, therefore, brings to nought the view of the Minister that they would have been in Parliament had they won.

Additionally, the Minister must also be reminded that former Teachers’ Union President and ULP’s candidate Senator Elvis Charles was also unsuccessful in the 2010 General Elections. Wouldn’t he like him to be rehired if the ULP had lost the elections?

Editor, what scares us most however, is the intolerance for critique by the Cabinet of the Unity Labour Party Government. Minister means Cabinet, and Cabinet means Prime Minister. Hence, Burgin says don’t criticise the ULP lest you suffer! Hundreds of Vincentians can attest to that. The latest is Bigger Bigs, because he articulated a different political view from that of the ULP. Point is, the Prime Minister endorsed the action of Minister Burgin to halt Bigger Bigs’ minning activities at Rabacca!

We need to talk and act reconciliation! Victimisation and discrimination must not be policies of the government as clearly expoused by the Minister.

Importantly, too, we have heard the Public Relations Officer of the SVGTU, Brother Vibert Lampkim, who has shown by his involvement in all the union’s recent struggles that while he is a party man, he stands by his union. We need to hear from our President Brother Ron Clarke. He needs to stand by and for his union and members. We are not impressed by the failure of the SVGTU to negotiate its fifth Collective Agreement, even when the MOE had three relatively new top managers and the government was on a knife’s edge to survive.

SVGTU must stand up! President Clarke needs to give clear leadership to his troops and let us say no to the policy of victimisation and discrimination by government and negotiate our fifth Collective Agreement!

Otto Sam

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