President of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union Oswald Robinson is accusing the Unity Labour Party government of using the COVID-19 vaccine mandate to “assassinate” teachers, economically.
“You have cut down people’s breadfruit tree, taken away people’s jobs. Teachers now are struggling to find monies to provide support to go to school. And you’re taking about quality education?” Robinson said on Sunday on the union’s radio show.
“And you’re also saying that the ministry of education is not capable of dealing with tertiary education. So you don’t want teacher’s children to go to university?” he said, in an apparent reference to the announcement that a separate ministry will be set up to deal with tertiary education.
Robinson was speaking on Xtreme FM days after Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said that his government is willing to “rehire” unvaccinated teachers who were dismissed last November after failing to take a COVID-19 vaccine, as mandated by law.
Robinson said union members rejected the proposal at a meeting last Friday and said teachers should be reinstated with all benefits intact and be paid damages.
The union leader said that the prime minister is saying that the door is now open for unvaccinated teachers to return to the classroom.
“So who closed the door? … Who made the law? … What the government needs to do is repeal the law, make a public apology, let people get back their jobs with all their benefits,” Robinson said.
“I know some people don’t like me to say this, if you know you done gi’ way all the money, you done have them to put on debit card, until close to election you putting up the money, if you genuinely know that you don’t have all the money to pay up, have a conversation with the Teachers’ Union and find out how you are going to pay back all this money, because we’re not going to give up.
“You have to pay the teachers for all the months they have been out… You want them to eat bread and butter?”
The union leader asked the public to bear in mind that the government is still staying that the country is under a public health emergency.
“… and you have a big convention today (Sunday). So where is the public health emergency here?” he said referring to the Unity Labour Party’s 25th convention, attended by hundreds of people in Campden Park.
“And they are bringing back this testing thing,” the union leader said, referring to the prime minister’s announcement that unvaccinated teachers who are rehired will have to test as mandated by health professionals.
“You know the poem, ‘‘Come into my parlour,’ said the spider to fly’? You are making it attractive, but the thing is, you don’t know. Because the fact that you keep changing the rules, there is no guarantee, there is no level of trust that is there.”
The government has said that it will provide the first four tests for free and that the results of rapid antigen tests are acceptable.
He said that a test at a private facility costs over EC$375, but he was apparently referring to a PCR test.
The union leader said if a graduate teacher is rehired as Teacher 1, their salary would be around EC$1,500 a month.
He said that the vaccine debate must also send a message to parents “because the government also talked about vaccinating your children.
“What are you going to do? You’re going to sit back? We are saying that you need quality teachers in the classroom. Are you going to stand with us? Do you really want quality teaching for students?
“How can you sit back and see teachers who have been teaching the schools in your area for so long and now they have been fired. You can’t sit back. You have to join with us when we are ready for the radical action that is within the confines of the law,” Robinson said.
He said that while the nation speaks of rising from the ashes of last year’s volcanic eruption, “what our government did was a government hurricane…
“This is one that the scientists had forgotten to put on the list because this one originated from St. Vincent and the Grenadines. This is a wicked storm that is impacting on our nation and this is why people are talking in their sleep now. They can’t sleep properly. You are passing out all kind of money …”
Robinson said that the union will not allow “anybody to come and sow any seeds of discord” as it addresses the issues related to the vaccine mandate.
“Let us remind ourselves of that. So anybody who thinks they are going to try to destroy what we are doing and get off, that’s not going to happen. Stay focused, listen to your union and everything will work out,” he said.
“To the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, repeal the law and reinstate our teachers with all benefits. The masses out there are crying at you. You are losing fame, you are losing your charisma and this will show out in a bad light next around,” Robinson said.