The St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU) has stated its intention to take the government to court over the delay in appointing senior qualified assistant teachers and graduate teachers.
“It is creating confusion and we have put it to legal consul who has said to take it to court and we are in the process of formalizing that, and that is of serious concern,” Andrew John, industrial relations and research officer at the SVGTU said at a press conference last week Friday.
John noted that there has been an increase in the hiring of graduates, but the way it is being done has created “a mess” in relation to the grade in which they are placed.
He explained that a graduate teacher should be placed in Grade E on completion of a first degree which comes with a professional teaching certificate from the Division of Teacher Education formerly known as the “Teachers’ College”.
He however said that the SVGTU has observed that there is a position called Grade F, which is below Grade E and this position was created for people who do not have the “Teachers’ College” certificate.
“…And it is paying less and our graduates are being placed in F which is causing them to lose benefits and salary,” John said while adding that the government said they would correct the issue, but last September when teachers graduated from the College, they were put in Grade F.
President of the SVGTU Oswald Robinson noted that the issue of the appointment of teachers is one they continue to raise with the government through the ministry of education.
He said that during a consultation with the government on the 2021 budget, the SVGTU told prime minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves that “absolutely nothing” had been put in the budget for the appointment of senior qualified assistant teachers.
“Some of them have gone up to 20/25 years and yet to be appointed,” Robinson said while adding that the Ministry of Education and by extension the government has failed to honour the collective agreement which they signed in 2005.
He said the government was expected to appoint at least one third of teachers, but this has not happened.
“We have over 60 something to be appointed and the posts have not been advertised and we are not seeing any interviews taking place,” Robinson said.
The president however noted that “one or two persons here and there are appointed” but a very close analysis shows that most of them are not members of the SVGTU.
“…And that is something that is critical because you are sending a message to say you can get benefits without being a member of the SVGTU.
“So you want to make the Union obsolete, that is, unnecessary, of no value,” Robinson opined while noting that it is also his view that the government comes to the SVGTU when it is convenient.
“This is a vexing issue and we have discussed this matter with the Public Service Union because we have common grounds on which we have been advocating for many years and we will work together and we will seek an audience with the Public Service Commission,” Robinson noted.
The president noted also that most of the teachers who are not appointed have been in the system for years and form part of the administrative apparatus of the schools, while even acting in the role of principal at times.
“You can’t have a complete oversight of forgetting to appoint these people. Their role is critical and many of them would have gone beyond the call of duty,” Robinson said while noting that the failure of the ministry of education to appreciate the value of these teachers is telling.
He said the SVGTU has a scheduled a meeting with the PSC, and they have already written to the PSC’s board, a joint letter with the PSU, but they are yet to receive a response.