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Opposition, trade union discuss matters affecting teachers

The executive of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union met, on Thursday, with Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday and members of his New Democratic Party to explain to them issues affecting teachers.

Teachers’ union president, Wendy Bynoe, told iWitness News, on Friday, that the general council of the union, at an emergency general council meeting on Wednesday, authorised the executive to meet with the opposition.

“The general council noted that it is not the first time that a trade union or SVGTU, in particular, had met with an opposition leader. It happened — as was stated at the general council meeting — in 1998 with the Unity Labour Party, with Ralph Gonsalves.

“The teachers union had written three letters to the government of the day, which was the NDP, they got no response, the opposition of the day decided to invite them to a meeting which they attended and at which they to highlighted the issues that were affecting the members of the Teachers’ Union.”

Bynoe told iWitness News that the NDP invited her union to the meeting on Thursday, saying they wanted to get a better understanding of the issues affecting teachers.

“It was mainly to discuss the four issues that are affecting us as teachers: pension reform, salary increase, working conditions and promotions and appointments. Those are what we discussed.”

Bynoe said that the opposition delegation also included Member of Parliament for East Kingstown, Arnhim Eustace, Member of Parliament for Central Kingstown, St., Clair Leacock, the NDP’s research officer, Addison “Bash” Thomas — a former teacher and candidate for the NDP, and Noel Dickson, a former banker, who was a candidate for the party in the 2015 general elections.

Seven of the 10 members of the executive of the teachers’ union attended the meeting, Bynoe said, adding that the three who did not attend had prior engagements.

She said the meeting was cordial.

“We just stuck to the agenda,” she said, of the talks which took place at Democrat House, the NDP’s headquarters, located on Murray’s Road, Kingstown.

Bynoe said her union thinks that the opposition can also raise — including in Parliament — the issues affecting the union.

“They can assist us in getting redress for those matters that were highlighted,” she told iWitness News.

Meanwhile, the opposition leader told iWitness News, separately, on Friday, “it was a good meeting”.

He said he invited the teachers’ union to the meeting to try and find out better the issues the teachers’ union is advancing on behalf of its members.

“We had a discussion on those issues, which included salary proposals, working conditions, promotions — the usual things that are part of a collective bargaining process and the current issues that were in the media.” 

Friday mentioned that among the things discussed was the meeting which the Teachers’ Union, Public Service Union and Police Welfare Association refused to attend with Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves last Friday after being told they would have to surrender their cellular phones to the police security officer at the Office of the Prime Minister, where the talks were held.

He further said the opposition wanted to understand the union’s position on the government’s offer of a 1 per cent salary increase for the second half of last year, 1.5 per cent for 2019 and 2 per cent for 2020.

Asked how he thinks the opposition can assist the union, Friday said the first part of assisting “is informing ourselves properly about what is at stake, what the unions are asking for. And that was the point of the meeting.

“And it was very helpful because they explained a lot of things to us that we didn’t quite get from following it in the press because they don’t normally consult with the opposition on these matters. I think it is the first time we have had a meeting with the teachers union,” the opposition told iWitness News.

Teachers’ union president, Wendy Bynoe, told iWitness News, on Friday, that the general council of the union, at an emergency general council meeting on Wednesday, authorised the executive to meet with the opposition.

“The general council noted that it is not the first time that a trade union or SVGTU, in particular, had met with an opposition leader. It happened — as was stated at the general council meting — in 1998 with the Unity Labour Party, with Ralph Gonsalves.

“The teachers union had written three letters to the government of the day, which was the NDP, they did not get any response, the opposition of the day decided to invite them to a meeting, which they attended, to highlight the issues that were affecting the members of the Teachers’ Union.”

Bynoe told iWitness News that the NDP invited her union to the meeting on Thursday, saying they wanted to get a better understanding of the issues affecting teachers.

“It was mainly to discuss the four issues that are affecting us as teachers: pension reform, salary increase, working conditions, and promotions and appointments. Those are what we discussed.”

Bynoe said that the opposition delegation also included Member of Parliament for East Kingstown, Arnhim Eustace, Member of Parliament for Central Kingstown, St., Clair Leacock, the NDP’s research officer, Addison “Bash” Thomas — a former teacher and candidate for the NDP, and Noel Dickson, a former banker, who was a candidate for the party in the 2015 general elections.

Seven of the 10 members of the executive of the teachers’ union attended the meeting, Bynoe said, adding that the three who did not attend had prior engagements.

She said the meeting was cordial.

“We just stuck to the agenda,” she said, of the talks which took place at Democrat House, the NDP’s headquarters, located on Murray’s Road, Kingstown.

Bynoe said her union thinks that the opposition can also raise — including in Parliament — the issues affecting the union.

“They can assist us in getting redress for those matters that were highlighted,” she told iWitness News.

Meanwhile, the opposition leader told iWitness News, separately, on Friday, “it was a good meeting”.

He said he invited the teachers’ union to the meeting to try and find out better the issues the teachers’ union is advancing on behalf of its members.

“We had a discussion on those issues, which included salary proposals, working conditions, promotions — the usual things that are part of a collective bargaining process and the current issues that were in the media.”

Friday mention among these the meeting which the Teachers’ Union, Public Service Union and the Police Welfare Association refused to attend with Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves last Friday after being told they would have to surrender their cellular phones to the police security officer at the Office of the Prime Minister, where the talks were held.

He further said the opposition wanted to get the union’s position on the government’s offer of 1 per cent salary increase for the second half of last year, 1.5 per cent for 2019 and 2 per cent for 2020.

Asked how he thinks the opposition can assist the union, Friday said the first part of assisting “is informing ourselves properly about what is at stake, what the unions are asking for. And that was the point of the meeting.

“And it was very helpful because they explained a lot of things to us that we didn’t quite get from following it in the press because they don’t normally consult with the opposition on these matters. I think it is the first time we have had a meeting with the teachers union,” the opposition leader told iWitness News.

Comments (5)

  1. All these labour issues have a long history preceding the present government, as the 1998 meeting suggests.

    The NDP oppostion has claimed repeatedly that it would institute transparency, accountability, and fairness in all areas under its control or supervision if elected to office. It has also often claimed that it would end bias, victimization, and nepotism in and out of government.

    Exactly the same promises were made by the ULP before it gained power in 2001.

    Since politico-economic ideology and general public policy hardly matter in poor and backward countries like ours where political power in and of itself is the source of so many individual rewards, neither Party has ever fulfilled these promises because doing so would destroy its main means of rewarding party faithful without whose support it could neither gain nor maintain power.

    Ending bias, victimization, and nepotism and replacing them with openess, impartiality, and fairness would be a death sentence for any political party in a high unemployment, dog eat dog, low resource country like ours. No rationale party leadership would deliberately plan its own demise.

    In little SVG, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

  2. These unions are playing politics. I knew we will be walking this road once the leaders of these Unions were appointed.

    It has always been politics for some and not the well being of their members.

    I guess rules internationally established ought not to be respected by some. It’s shameful.

    I hope the members are observing for the next set of elections.

  3. Are we all really weakly gifted or are the people in charge really brutal? Are we ever going to awake from this nightmare?

  4. I’ll like to know how Ralphy feels about the opposition meeting with the teachers union and why it was ok when he met with the union in 1998 and his explanation as to why it’s not ok for the opposition to meet with the union now. Looking forward to your BS explanation Comrade

  5. Lightning never strikes twice in the same place. Furthermore both leaderships lack the ability to galvanize their base. This meeting is a waste of time.

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