Teachers union on the war path
June 24, 2005
Teachers union on the war path

“Kill the Bill again!”

That was the battle cry shouted by teachers gathered for an emergency meeting last Wednesday afternoon at the Kingstown Anglican School.

They expressed disgust with clauses contained in proposals for the New Education Bill, expected to be passed by September. Teachers vented their anger at the New Education Bill and declared their readiness to strike.{{more}}

But, after two hours of discussions, the members of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGUT) opted not to be swayed by emotions.

They took five decisions. One was the agreement to communicate on Thursday 23 to Government, their willingness to participate in the discussions at the Sub-Committee level on the New Education Bill. That, however, hinged on the Collective Agreement taking priority.

The teachers also want the reclassification of teachers and an assurance that under the Constitutional Review, the Teachers’ Service Commission be included.

Another point of agreement was that the “backward step” in the proposals of the Act submitted to the Union last week be removed.

Otto Sam, the SVGTU president, disclosed Wednesday June 15 that just the day before, the Union had received a copy of the New Education Bill from the Clerk of the House of Assembly, inviting them to a Select Committee of Parliament set for Thursday, June 16, 2005 at 9:00 a.m.

Back then, Sam had charged that his preliminary examination of the document had revealed that the New Education Act was “anti-SVGTU”. He noted then that the proposed Act had reversed a series of gains achieved by teachers from decades of struggle.

Sam said what the union was experiencing was similar to what took place under the Eric Gairy and Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier administrations.

Former President of the Teachers Union, Oswald Robinson, asked members to take the matter seriously, but before going to battle, to ensure that they had allies.

Union members warned Wednesday that if, come September, their recommendations were not taken into consideration, there would be no school.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Dr.Ralph Gonsalves responding to the teachers’ objection to the proposals for the New Education Bill said a number of things in the Bill are being misrepresented.”

“I don’t think they have studied the Bill,” said Dr.Gonsalves.

And with regards to teachers believing it is a strategy by Government to divert attention from the Collective Agreement Prime Minister Gonsalves noted “that’s absolutely not so at all. Absolutely not”.

Dr. Gonsalves said while work is being done on the proposed Bill work is also being done on the Collective Agreement for teachers.

“We are prepared to continue our discussions dealing with both,” the Prime Minister stated.

He said that he has already indicated to the President Sam the framework which is presented for the Bill is a good one.

“I do not want to see a Bill passed which the teachers, parents and children are unhappy with,” said Dr.Gonsalves.

“Wherever the differences are they could be hammered out,” the Prime Minister noted.