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Former teachers may get recalled to service

Former teachers may get recalled to service
PRIME MINISTER Dr Ralph Gonsalves

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Today is the final day for teachers to take a COVID-19 vaccination or leave the public teaching service.

But, 29 teachers at the West St. George Secondary School (WSGSS), both vaccinated and unvaccinated, said this week they are against the government’s mandatory vaccination policy.

These educators made their feelings known by letter, signed by individual members of the staff and sent to the Chief Personnel Officer at the Service Commission Department on Thursday November 25. They also staged several “sit-ins” where they remained in the staff
room and did not go to classes.

On Friday November 19 the government instituted its COVID-19 mandate through SR&O No 28 — The Public Health (Public bodies Special Measures) Rules of 2021. This requires that certain groups of workers take a COVID-19 jab in order to continue working in their respective areas.

As of today, failure to be vaccinated results in workers being deemed to be absent from duty without leave.

In keeping with public service regulations, any worker who is absent from duty without leave for 10 working days, unless declared otherwise by the Public Service Commission, shall be deemed to have resigned from their office and ceases to be an employee of the state.

“Our opposition is not to the COVID-19 vaccine but to the SR&O of 2021 that specifies that teachers, as frontline workers, need to be vaccinated for employment,” the letter stated.

The letter also states that many of the teachers on staff have been at the job for more than 10 years and have enjoyed a level “of cohesion that has made the West St. George Secondary School the success that it has been since its inception.”

The teachers said the SR&O threatens to undermine that cohesion and puts at risk the anticipated advancement of the students.

Last Friday November 26 and again on Wednesday December 1, many teachers at the school did not do any teaching and instead remained in their classrooms to protest the government’s vaccination policy while showing solidarity with teachers who are refusing to be vaccinated.  

On Wednesday, December 1, prime minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves speaking on NBC Radio’s ‘Your Morning Cup’ asked that teachers take the vaccine and remain on the job and not to punish the students.  

He said that going to school and not teaching the students is hurting persons who don’t deserve to be hurt and they are doing so on a basis that is not rational.  

He said the government has an obligation for the safety of the children and that obligation is “high on the totem pole”.

“Also an obligation very high on the totem pole is the education of the children, so if you want to go to school and stay in the staff room I will instruct the Ministry of Education to hire other teachers to go and teach. 

“Indeed I had given them instructions, if need be, not only there (WSGSS) but anywhere else, to hire retired teachers.” These teachers will be hired on short term contracts and a decision of Cabinet will ensure that they will continue receiving their pensions along with whatever other payment they will get under a contract.  

“Everybody must understand how I think, how I am leading and how the government thinks. You want to go to school and stay in the staff room, stay in the staff room. I ain’t sending police to move you. I just get somebody else to teach people children, including, if necessary, to hire teachers…” the prime minister stressed.  

Gonsalves said he has nothing personal against those who choose not to take the vaccine but he is urging persons to make the rational and right choice; take the vaccine or get an exemption.  

“But if you decide that you are not taking it, well, choices have consequences,” the PM said.