President of the Teachers’ Union, Oswald Robinson, says he feels like the union was set up by head of the National Omnibus Association (NOBA), Anthony “Code Red” Bacchus, who told I-Witness Mews on Monday that bus drivers had voted against supporting trade unions demanding a salary payment from the government.
“I am transparent with the business of the union. What I am saying, it appears as if it is a set up … because you can’t be coming to me asking me to join with you, to work together, you have a meeting, you ask me to speak, and when I am finished, the media is excluded and then you have your other kind of meeting to take a vote,” Robinson told I-Witness News on Monday.
Robinson’s comment came hours after Bacchus told I-Witness News that NOBA on Sunday voted against joining with the unions as both groups try to pressure the government to meet their demands.
The Teachers’ Union, along with the Public Service Union, is trying to force the government to meet their demand for one-month, tax-free salary payment in lieu of salary increase since 2001.
NOBA, on the other hand, is trying to get the government to respond favourably to its demand for road repairs, an express route out of Kingstown during rush hour and other issues.
NOBA has given the government until Wednesday to respond to its demands, saying that it will strike on Monday if they are not met.
Robinson said that Bacchus’ comments to I-Witness News gave the impression that the unions had approached NOBA asking for support.
“The way it is reported in the media it’s as if we went and begged for support. But he was the one that said he wants to work with us and invited us to a meeting.”
Bacchus, speaking to I-Witness News separately on Monday, said that he had in fact initiated the talks with the unions.
“I had spoken to Mr Robinson when we had planned to strike,” Bacchus said.
Robinson told I-Witness News that Bacchus contacted him three times and also visited his workplace suggesting that NOBA and the unions work together.
Robinson said he met with his executive on Friday, which gave permission for the Teachers’ Union to be represented at the NOBA meeting held on Sunday.
He said, he, along with Public Relations Officer, Wendy Bynoe, and
committee member, Sharon Doyle, attended the NOBA meeting, to which the PSU was also invited.
Robinson said that when he arrived at the meeting, he realised that a media practitioner was there and he expressed concern about this, since the meeting was a strategy meeting.
He told I-Witness News that Bacchus told him to go ahead and make his presentation.
Robinson said that, in his address to the members of NOBA, he accepted the organisation’s support and explained the negotiations that had led the unions to take the current position with the government.
“But we never said to them what we are going to do,” Robinson said.
He told I-Witness News that the Teachers’ Union delegation left the meeting as the NOBA members were about to take a vote on whether they should support the unions.
Meanwhile, Bacchus told I-Witness News that his executive met with government officials on Monday, and NOBA still intends to strike if it does not see movement towards meeting its demands by Wednesday.
He, however, did not elaborate on the outcome of the meeting, telling I-Witness News that he will wait until Wednesday, the deadline, given to the government.