Amidst accusations that some executive members are involved in politics, Head of the Teachers’ Union, Oswald Robinson, says he is confident that his executive is working in the interest of its members.
The Teachers’ Union and the Public Service Union are trying to pressure the government to pay public sector workers one month’s salary, tax-free, in lieu of salary increases since 2011.
The unions’ memberships have mandated them to demand that the one-month salary payment be made before general elections, expected before year-end.
But Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, says that his government cannot make the payment, which amounts to EC$25 million or double the monthly wage bill.
Gonsalves has also suggested that some trade unionists are being political.
He said that he was informed that a woman in the trade union movement has said she is interested in a change of government, as she would become Chief Education Officer under a New Democratic Party administration.
Asked to comment on this, Robinson told I-Witness News on Monday:
“I can’t comment on who is introducing the politics. Politicians will always think politically and anytime you stand up and challenge a politician, they will always find some way to try to bring in politics.”
He, however, said there is nothing wrong with being ambitious.
“Everyone has ambition. Nothing is wrong if somebody wants a position. But to shift the focus to what somebody’s personal ambition is, that is not the right way to deal with this issues,” he told I-Witness News.
“Because we started to talk since December 2014, we formalised a proposal and presented it in January 2015, we have had three meetings, and nothing is happening. All of a sudden you are hearing who wants position now and who is NDP and who is ULP.
“All that is not necessary at this time. That is to shift focus and that is to divide the membership. I am not going to allow that to distract me. That is a distraction.
“People have their political ambitions on all sides.
“What I am saying is that this executive took the initiative, went forward with the Public Service Union to ask for this compensation. And after we were not getting any movement from the government, we told the government that we were going back to our membership. And the membership adopted our proposal and changed the tone of the process by inserting the word demand.
“And it gave the executive a mandate to do all that is necessary to put pressure on the government to get this one-month compensation. So we already have a mandate from the membership, and that is what we are going forward with.”
Robinson noted persons’ freedom of association right, adding that this extends to the entire membership of the trade union.
“If there is any member of the executive or the membership who do not want to subscribe and respect the decision of the meeting, then they have choices of what they could do. Because there are some people, they put their party before the union, but, at the end of the day, the union still has to go back and fight for them.”
He said that the Teachers Union will meet with the PSU this week as they continue their push for the salary payment.
“We are still consolidating, we are strategising and we are building up the momentum. That is important in order to encourage each other to keep focused.”
Robinson said that some segments of the media continue to beat up on the leadership of the trade union.
“I do get a lot of licks, but I am not going to return licks by defaming and pulling down anybody. I leave it to the Creator. I believe what we are fighting for it’s just, it’s reasonable and I think we should all unite as workers, as leaders of the labour movement, work together to advocate and speak with one voice so that the people we represent would be really proud of us.
“Every time you go to government and come back, people say you sell out. And it affects the image of the union; it affects the leadership of the union,” he said.
Mr Robinson what you are demanding is just and it is reasonable. Just because it is the Labour Party in power is no reason whatsoever not to get the just rewards for the membership.
Regardless of which party and which leader is in power the teachers have the right to take action against whoever is treating them abysmally on behalf of the membership.
You are quite right buying goods for millions of dollars and giving them away prior to an election is little more than a travesty against honesty and goodness. Then for the comrade to play the poor people card is an insult to the intelligence of decent people. If people deserve those materials they have deserved them for up to the last five years, why only give out prior to an election other than to try and influence the way ignorant and penniless people vote. The whole give away of state owned materials under the pretence that they now put forward is a sham. It is also the theft of state property by a political party dressed up as something it is not.
I know a man that had a decent board house in a village who was told to pull it down and submit a list for the total rebuilding of it to his local Labour representative. He did that and is waiting for the materials, problem is if he doesn’t get them before the election, he may not get them after the election. I have told him to sue his labour representative if he loses his seat.
So you see they are not interested in the teachers, public services members or the van drivers, they are only interested in being re-elected at any price. They are willing to spend government money like a man with no arms to get re-elected, but when they are asked to pay those that deserve what they are due you are accused of being political. Remember it is them that have made this matter political in their quest for re-election, not the teachers.
Remember the Port Police who were owed back payment for an award, when they applied some industrial action they were fired from their jobs, every last one of them.
Remember the irrigation workers who were made redundant because the government decided not to irrigate bananas any more, sat them in a yard for several months with no wages hoping they would creep away, when they asked for their pay they were all fired and sent home, with nothing.
This government despite claiming to be a government of the people are in fact only supportive of the dynasty family, they are all living well, look at their tailored suits, hand cut shirts and Italian shoes. They can fill their stomachs whenever they want with whatever they want. They can fly to wherever they wish whenever they wish for medical attention, whilst your members are left at the hands of well wishing Vincentian hospital personal with no drugs, dressings or equipment that works, the rest of us get 5th rate medical attention whilst they can afford the luxury of the best of everything.
This is not a socialist party of the people it is a Marxist dictatorship in the making, its taking a little longer than planned because of the large middle class sector. But as they are driven out they leave easily malleable peasants that are grateful for far less, even a few galvanized sheets and a few sheets of plywood.
The countries who the dynasty wish to emulate such as Cuba and Venezuela have already achieved the creation of their peasant class. In Venezuela a school teacher with 25 years of experience made 9,786 bolivars a month in 2014. That’s about US$35 or EC$94 a month [EC$5 a day] at the current black market exchange rate, which won’t even buy a used television. It took 1.5 minimum wage salaries just to feed a family, let alone do anything else.
Whilst in Cuba last year, 14,000 teachers left the classroom with medical leave certificates or requesting self-employment licenses, while this summer another 4,000 gave up teaching without excuses. Meanwhile, 80 percent of the slots to study teaching careers are vacant. They receive a monthly salary equivalent to no more than US$25 or EC$67, which has to go for a whole month of food as well as for buying clothes and grooming products that allow them to come to school with a good appearance. However, a pair of even poor quality shoes will cost them half of what they earn.
So Mr Robinson you and your membership need to aware of the endgame.
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