The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union and the Public Service Union have presented to the Unity Labour Party administration, a proposal for salary increase.
President of the Teachers’ Union, Oswald Robinson, told a press conference in Kingstown on Tuesday that the proposal was presented in January and the union reminded the government in May but is yet to receive a response.
“… we are not going to give up on that, because a lot of our teachers out there, they are crying. The pocket change that they are getting, it could hardly make ends meet,” Robinson said.
“As a union we must fight for socio-economic justice and we are continuing to do that. We are united, we stand tall, we are resolute and we are not going to give up.”
But even as Robinson was making his argument, some members of the public who were following the press conference via Facebook Live on iWitness News said that teachers did not deserve a pay hike.
Asked to respond to this, Otto Sam, the union’s industrial relations officer, said:
“The results, in terms of the 11-plus, along with the CSEC and CAPE are clearly showing improved performances.
“And that is what the state and CXC, the external bodies put out. So it is not something that the teachers shape. The teachers shaped it because of their input and their hard work and their dedication. And so yes, teachers are delivering and have been delivering, even when the circumstances were challenging, teachers were delivering.”
He said there was a time when the state had not had the seats in the classroom and the number of person promoted tapered off because of the state’s inability to accommodate them.
Robinson said the union has also been raising with the government the issue of equity.
He said that teachers who are in training at the college don’t get a salary unless they are already on the permanent establishment.
He, however, noted that police recruits and students nurses get a salary increase.
“So where is the equity? What is the value that we put on teaching? The workload of teachers has increased, in some cases, twice, tripled and so on.
“Everybody is having a competition out there — corporative sector or whomever. They want the school to shift its curriculum to accommodate this. But nobody is saying give the teacher a better salary.
“A number of teachers are dying of stress. People are saying we are living longer but over the last five years, many of our teachers have been kicking the bucket. Who is looking out for the welfare of our teachers? It’s the union, the Teachers’ Union. Nobody else and that is how the struggle will continue,” Robinson said.
He said he wants the public to understand that when the union stands up and its voice echoes, it is not about partisan politics.
“We are not telling anybody who to support. That’s not our business. We have to deal with the real flesh and blood issues, the bread and butter issues,” Robinson said.
He also noted that some teachers have to wait for years after retirement to begin receiving a pension from the National Insurance Services.
The union head said this is illegal, adding that teachers should begin receiving pension within a month of retirement.