The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union, on Thursday, said that the government has been short paying principals their end-of-year allowance for 10 years.
“Principals should have been receiving $910 as their end-of-year allowance and the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines continues to rob our teachers, union president, Oswald Robinson told a press conference in Kingstown, called to address issues relating to education in the country.
“And this is a serious matter. It has been going on for 10 years,” he said.
Robinson further said that Ketty Rhynd, who is now the union’s general secretary, never received the hard area allowance due to her when she was transferred from the JP Eustace Memorial Secondary School in Kingstown, to the Union Island Secondary School for five years beginning in 2010.
“And all other persons who have been transferred have received their hard area allowance. So the government owes Mrs. Rhynd 10 years now,” Robinson said.
“And I want to know if that is justice,” he further stated.
Robinson noted that the last collective agreement between the government and the union was signed 15 years ago.
And while the government touts the 100% mortgage programme, this was a union initiative, Robinson told the media.
“That is our thing. We signed that in the 2003 collective agreement, with election leave, and increase of maternity leave up to three months with full pay and a lot of other benefits for our teachers. The tax threshold also; that was risen,” Robson said.
Robinson said the government was yet to respond to the union’s request for negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement.
“We negotiated in 2013, the government refused to sign because their eyes were now opened that they would have signed on to the election leave. They called it ‘aspirational,’” he said.
Robinson was referring to an element of the 2005 agreement in which the government agreed that teachers could receive unpaid leave of up to six months to contest elections and return to the service all benefits intact, if unsuccessful.
The government rescinded the agreement, calling it “aspirational” and the court has ruled against the government on the matter.
“So they refused to sign when we negotiated in 2013. So now, we are well prepared, our team is well prepared to negotiate a new collective agreement and we have written to them and they have refused to answer us,” the union boss said.
Robinson said that the government is yet to honour the court ruling regarding the three teachers who contested the 2010 general elections on behalf of the main opposition New Democratic Party.
Kenroy Johnson, Addison “Bash” Thomas and Elvis Daniel, were hoping to rely on the election leave provision of the collective bargaining agreement the government had signed with the union.
However, they were forced to resign when the government said that the deal was aspirational, resulting in the court case that the union has won against the government, the ruling of which the government has refused to obey.
“The government has failed to obey the court order,” Robinson said at the press conference at which lawyer for the union, Shirlan “Zita” Barnwell spoke of developments since the court ruling.
He said that the union is trying to give Johnson, Thomas, and Daniel hope, adding, “Our lawyers have been working and we as a union, we are doing our part.
“It is hard that you run for political office wanting to serve at a higher level as part of our democracy and as part of giving teachers opportunity to serve, then they are being penalised,” Robinson said.
The union leader also used Thursday’s press conference to commend teachers on students’ results in this year’s CXC examinations, saying that teachers worked very hard.
He singled out West St. George Secondary School, saying that the majority of its students did not pass their primary school exit examination but went on to register 100% passes in a number of subjects.
“And when I listened to the math teacher who spoke about the improvement of these students and how she had to push them the extra mile in collaboration with the management of the school and the parents, these are testimonies that we need to underscore and give high praises to.”
He said that the union knows there are some issues and that the schools are examining them through the regional examination body.
“Because you can’t have a student who has been your top student performing extremely well all throughout and in one particular subject area is way below the average. Something has to be wrong somewhere.”