President of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU), Oswald Robinson has given the assurance that the union will leave no stone unturned in the fight for unvaccinated teachers who were deemed to have resigned from their jobs last year.
“We are not going to leave any stone unturned,” Robinson said on Sunday evening, July 10 while speaking on the programme Teachers Talk, aired on Xtreme Radio.
Robinson was responding to comments made by prime minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves regarding the rehiring of teachers who lost their jobs last year, as a result of their refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
When he called in to WEFM’s Issue at Hand Programme on Sunday morning, July 10 Gonsalves spoke of the possibility of having those teachers returned to their classes for the new school term.
He, however, did not give any particulars under which this would be effected.
In December last year, teachers received letters of termination from the Chief Personnel Officer, Arlene Regisford-Sam.
They were dismissed after the expiry of the grace period for them to comply with Rule# 5 of the Public Health SR&O, no 28 of 2021.
The government enacted this piece of legislation where public officers who were deemed to be frontline workers were given a particular time frame, to take a COVID- 19 vaccine.
Regulation 8 (1) of the Order provides that an unvaccinated employee must not enter the workplace and is to be treated as being absent from duty without leave.
Teachers who were deemed to be absent from duty without being on leave and who had failed to take the COVID-19 vaccine were dismissed, along with other public servants.
“The St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union’s position has remained the same,” Robinson said on Sunday.
The union’s president appealed to teachers who are still in the classroom, and those who are deemed to have resigned to “stand with the union.”
“Our position is that the teachers must be reinstated, there is a fundamental difference by talking about rehired.”
Robinson said he had a conversation with the prime minister last Wednesday evening, July 6.
“I articulated the union’s position on this matter as president of the Teachers Union, I drew reference to carnival,” Robinson told listeners.
“I said to him the position of the Teachers Union is that teachers must be reinstated, and you need to do it and do it quickly.
“The Teachers Union is concerned about quality education, and we want the nation’s children to get the best.”
Robinson said further, “I want everybody out there to understand the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union, our position is that teachers must be reinstated.
“And we are looking within the next two weeks…schools have to be staffed, and you have to do this thing quickly, Robinson said.”
“We are looking in the next two weeks that the teachers would be reinstated, and if not, then we would have to have some kind of radical action,” he stressed.
The teachers union president said the situation presents an opportunity for the teachers who are deemed to have resigned to “stand up”, and even teachers who are in the classroom.
Abdon Whyte, the Union’s second vice president, views the prime minister’s recent pronouncements as “a kind of slap in the face to teachers.”
“I applaud the decision by the prime minister, to at least revisit the decision that they would have made.”
In a call to Sunday’s programme Whyte said he believes the government’s decision was wrong.
“I felt that I was forced to be vaccinated to keep my job.
“I never had a problem with the vaccine, I just had a problem with the mandate,”Whyte explained.
He recalled that government said they were following the science, in relation to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, but when the science changed, the government’s position remained the same.
According to Whyte, the government encouraged mass gathering events during the carnival, “and then coming out after that to still tell teachers that you have to be vaccinated.”
Industrial Relations and Research Officer at the SVGTU, Andrew John said teachers were mistakenly and wrongly dismissed from their jobs.
John also stated that given the present situation, some teachers are “barely holding on.”
At present, there is a matter before the High Court in relation to teachers and other public officers who lost their jobs by failing to comply with the SR&O.