SVG Teachers Union  responds to money non-disbursement claim
From Left: Oswald Robinson and Nicole MArtindale
News
February 27, 2024
SVG Teachers Union responds to money non-disbursement claim

Executive members of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU), have responded to a claim on radio by a member of the union that money intended for unvaccinated teachers who lost their jobs was not received by them.

The claim was made on WEFM’s Issues at Hand radio programme on Sunday February, 25, 2024, two days before the start of elections for a new executive. The allegation was made by the first vice president, Nicole Martindale who is challenging Oswald Robinson for the position of president.

Martindale spoke about $20,000 that was pledged to the union but claimed the SVGTU received only $1,800.

“I want the dismissed teachers to hear me on this one, that money was not given to the dismissed teachers as promised.”

Martindale, who has said she has been teaching for about 20 years said, “the union has changed, it has declined, the participation is not there like it used to be.”

On Monday February, 26,2024 the union held a press conference at its headquarters, moderated by Fiona Charles, the union’s public relations officer who is running unopposed in the upcoming elections.

Charles said the comment was in relation to $20,000 received by the union during a ‘radio-thon’ held in June/July, 2022. The money made was to be divided between the SVGTU and the Public Service Union (PSU), as well as the NDP.

“One of those things that was mentioned was the fact that $20,000 was pledged and we received a certain amount and the teachers never got that amount…I was listening to the programme and I’m not sure if it was $1,800 or $18,000, but an amount was quoted that we received and that was not given.”

Charles said that no one person can make a statement or take a decision on behalf of the union and that the approach to the situation should have been done in a way that does not embarrass the union.

SVGTU president, Oswald Robinson said because it is election season at times things can be said out of proportion and explained that it is the responsibility of the union to deal with its public image, hence the reason for the press conference. “What was said on that programme yesterday doesn’t help the individual who said it.”

Robinson said that during the radio-thon there were a few committee members who were delegated with tasks for the initiative and some of those members, for whatever reason, did not to show up.

“Nevertheless, we took that effort…If it is $1800 received, and we had 212 teachers dismissed, you do the maths, each teacher would’ve gotten approximately $8.49.”

It was the executive decision to “put that money aside” until they could source more funds for the teachers as it made no sense having persons travel from different corners of SVG to receive $8.49.

Robinson said during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when teachers were dismissed, the union made efforts to support them and “that was very early-o-clock. I think it was coming close to December when the mandate was imposed”.

He said that the union also gave a second portion of monetary support early in 2023, adding that around that time the union was paying legal fees for the case of dismissed teachers, which the union recently paid in the amount of $30,000.

He said it is disappointing that someone can go to the media and make a statement attacking the union’s accountability and transparency but “that’s not what happened, every single cent that has been in the union’s accounts, they are audited, we have our financial auditor and our external auditors”.

Also attending the press conference was president of the Public Service Union (PSU), Elroy Boucher, who explained that while $20,000 was pledged, just over $10,000 was received.

“The record would show that the Public Service Union received $4,022; the teachers union received the same amount- ($4,022); and the Police Welfare Association received $2,000.”

Boucher added that a PSU assessment was done looking at all the dismissed public servants, and funds were distributed based on those who were suffering the most.

“It is a really unfortunate situation that a member of the executive who seems not to have the information would make statements that can implicate other unions, and even organisations,” Boucher lamented.

He expressed further disappointment that one can use such situation to advance their chances of being elected to lead. Boucher highlighted the strong relationship between the PSU and the SVGTU, stating that co-operation and solidarity is important in tackling far greater issues than making statements that are intended to distract.