A cross section of the audience at the Teachers Solidarity Rally at the Bishop’s College grounds last Friday.
News
November 25, 2022
Lawyer promises teachers big victory in Covid-19 vaccine mandate case (+Video)

by Jada Chambers

Lawyer, Jomo Thomas has promised a big victory for the Teachers Union in their court case against the government over dismissed teachers who refused to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

Speaking last Friday, November 18 at the annual solidarity march and rally of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU), Thomas claimed that the government had no business in law to block workers out of their work place.

He told the audience at the rally, which was held at the Bishop College grounds, that the intended effect of the government’s action was for teachers to not be able to go to their jobs, to not get paid, and to lose their pension and gratuity.

“They said they were passing a medical emergency but disregarded the constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines which prescribed the ways in which you pass a medical emergency; because section 17(2) of our Constitution says that a state of emergency can be passed if there is earthquake, fire, war, pestilence or infectious diseases…”

“I am sure that the COVID-19 pandemic is an infectious disease,” said Thomas, whose chambers has been representing the SVGTU on the matter.

The declaration of a Public Health Emergency was made on April 9, 2020 under the Statutory Rules and Orders No. 38.

Thomas said he plans to have the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Simone Keizer-Beache cross examined concerning an affidavit she had put forward in the case.

“When we finish with her, Justice Henry would look at all the cases that we have supplied, and at the end of the day Justice Henry, who is an outstanding jurist, would come back and say not only to the government, but the people of SVG, that the government’s action violated the Constitution and that it violated the laws of SVG and as a consequence, all of you [teachers] who stood firm, you will be made to be justified in all that you do…,” Thomas declared.

He said the union in its wisdom decided to fight the case and the union is on its way to a “big and massive’ victory.

“Put your pot on the fire,” Thomas told cheering teacher, the union will receive victory when the case takes place at the High Court on November 29 and December 1.

 

Jomo Thomas

He claims that “The government does not have the facts with it, and it certainly does not have the law with it, and we are going to prove in 11 days time…that the government’s COVID mandate did not comport with the law.”

Thomas told the teachers that their union by its effort, solidarity and stance, is committed and determined to fight and to struggle, and will not abandon those teachers who have refused to submit to the “foolish” laws that have been passed by the government which assault the integrity and anatomy of their body.

The lawyer said he remains convinced that had it not been for the efforts of the SVGTU and the fight of the Public Service Union, SVG would have been in an even more horrible place than it is now when it comes to workers’ rights. And, he called on the general membership and executive of both unions to congratulate themselves, and to stand firm for even greater battles and struggles, as he made reference to the 1975 Teachers strike in which a number of demands were made of the authorities then, including better working conditions.

“…The authorities of the day then, like the authorities of the day now, held a stiff-necked view and responded in a manner which was unbecoming of leaders of a civilised society; and in the same way in which teachers stood firm in 1975 and marched and struggled, I am impressed with the way in which the Teachers Union and teachers have stood firm in the face of the oppressive policies and actions of the current administration led by Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.”

Thomas noted that some may say this manifestation is a small one, but “mind not the numbers”, for a sufficient amount had felt compelled to march and rally.

He reminded participants at the rally that they are planting seeds in the minds of the younger generation who would grow to be teachers, telling them that wherever there may be something that grieves them, the way to advance and progress is to make their voices heard.

Additionally, that their presence and actions over the last year, as well as their support for the leadership of the union have shown that they are prepared to do all that is necessary, not only to defend teachers but to defend democracy, to defend transparency and to defend good governance in the country.

The annual solidarity march and rally which was held under the theme: “Adequate, Quality Teachers, The Foundation of a progressive Society”, was also addressed by Cecil “Pa” Jack who was one of the teachers at the forefront of the 1975 strike.