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Oswald Robinson 1

President of the SVG Teachers’ Union, Oswald Robinson speaking at Monday’s press conference. (iWN photo)

A trade union leader in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has rejected the suggestion that the National Economic Social Development Council (NESDEC) be revived.

President of the SVG Teachers’ Union, Oswald Robinson, shared his view on the suggestion at a press conference, on Monday, where he called out the anti-trade union statements of some trade unionists in the country. 

NESDEC, which was established in 2003, comprises representatives from government, civil society and the community to address social and economic issues.

However, some persons, including the main opposition New Democratic Party, have called for its abolishment, saying that it is anti-trade union in that its members cannot formulate government policy then turn around and criticize those same policies when they affect workers negatively. 

Robinson told a Teachers’ Union press conference that he had watched, on Sunday, a television programme in which one of the presenters wanted “to reinvent the wheel, talking about get back NESDEC…

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“I want to say that that is nonsense,” Robinson said.

“When you read, the purpose of NESDEC, has good intentions but the composition, you usually find people on NESDEC of a particular persuasion.”

Robinson said that  there is nothing wrong with having a particular persuasion “but if you belong to an organisation and a government is doing something wrong, and you can’t stand up, if you don’t have the sort to stand up and say you’re doing wrong, doesn’t make any sense you go an represent people.”

He said that under NESDEC, someone was appointed to a position “to more or less defuse any potential for industrial action. 

“I wouldn’t want to sign on to something like that; that you’re going to tie my hands.”

Robinson further spoke out against the anti-union statement of some trade unionists in SVG. 

“I’m a little appalled sometimes when you hear people saying, why you don’t go raid the other people homes and all of that. And sometimes these statements are coming from people who should know better — actual trade unionists.”

He was speaking about alleged comments made after police raided the homes of over 10 protesters following the protest in Kingstown on Aug. 5, when Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves was struck in the head while walking among protesters. 

“When the teachers union makes a position against the government in good faith, respectfully so, you have other trade union leaders out there going on their  political rostrum and attacking your sister unions,” Robinson said, adding that this has happened repeatedly. 

“Once the government does good, you say you do good; but once you do bad, you have to say bad. You can’t be silent? And so why do you want to label somebody as partisan,” he said. 

Robinson said that after the Aug. 5 assault of the prime minister, a senator spoke in Parliament, “knocking one trade union here and one there and so on.

“When it comes to Robinson, he saying, ‘I don’t know where to put him.’  But that’s not your business. Because I don’t tell you where to put yourself,” the teachers’ union head said. 

He said people have a right to associate with a political party of their choice.

“But if somebody appears to be not on your side, or not to be singing the same song like you, you want to demonise them. It’s very unfortunate and we need to stop it. Because I don’t tell anybody who to vote for. That’s not my business.”

The union boss said that whenever one of his members gets into trouble, he pays no attention to their political persuasion.  

“That’s not my business. The Constitution and teachers union mandates the union to represent. If the teacher does wrong, we tell you that you do wrong but as a Trade Union, you still try to see how you protect the person, because you’re innocent under the law until proven guilty,” he said. 

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