July 15, 2022
Rehire or Reinstate: Let’s put SVG first

SEARCHLIGHT welcomes the glimmer of hope offered by the possibility or even probability that teachers, who lost their jobs during the height of the Covid-19 crisis by their refusal to comply with regulations which required vaccination, might be re-employed soon.

The glimmer appeared when Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said on radio recently that “it is possible” for the teachers to return to classrooms in time for the new term, possibly under certain conditions, if there is no further spike in Covid infections. His cautious optimism differed somewhat from the position expressed by the SVG Teachers’ Union (SVGTU) which has been at odds with the Government on the issue and has insisted that the teachers so affected “must be reinstated”.

While it is clear that there are still differences between the Union and the Government, as employer of the teachers, it is important that we do not shut this window of opportunity for the re-employment of the teachers. Indeed it is imperative that whatever the strong feelings on both sides, given their differences, that this time the interests of the nation, our children and the teachers be placed first.

The matter will not be solved if we continue to emphasize who or what was right at the time. It is clear that our country cannot afford such a valuable loss of teaching skills or the setbacks this poses to students and education in general. The country needs the teachers and those made jobless by the impasse need their jobs. This cannot be resolved if the approach focuses on who would win and who would lose.

Perhaps as a starting point, we should all, the two parties involved, and the rest of the nation as a whole, reflect on what risk COVID-19 posed to public health at the time the vaccine mandate was given and what is the risk now. Were the measures that were taken to lower the risk environment of the schools justified and did they work to protect our people?

Could the impasse have been avoided if we had taken a different approach? Did we exhaust all possibilities for resolution by resolute intransigence? Was there enough effort on the part of possible mediators to assist in this regard?

One year later we are all aware of the circumstances and consequently ought to be wiser. In working towards a resolution, let the focus be first on public health and secondly on the resolution of the issue in the best interest of the country, our students and the teachers. This must be the priority, not which body was right, the Government or the SVGTU.