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Teachers protest in Kingstown on Aug. 11, 2022. The court ruled on March 13, 2023 that the dismissed workers never ceased to hold their respective jobs as public officers and are entitled to all pay and benefits. (Photo: Searchlight.vc)
Teachers protest in Kingstown on Aug. 11, 2022. The court ruled on March 13, 2023 that the dismissed workers never ceased to hold their respective jobs as public officers and are entitled to all pay and benefits. (Photo: Searchlight.vc)

The public sector unions who on Monday won their lawsuit against the government in the COVID-19 vaccine mandate case have told their workers to return to work from today (Thursday).

In her ruling on Monday, High Court judge Esco Henry held that the workers, who were forced out of their jobs in December 2021 for failing to take a COVID-19 vaccine, never ceased to be entitled to hold the respective offices to which they had been appointed.

She said they are entitled to full pay and all benefits due and payable to them in their respective capacities as public officers or police officers, inclusive of any accrued pension and gratuity benefits or rights from the respective dates on which they were deemed to have resigned.

The government has said it intends to apply for a stay of execution of the judgment and appeal the ruling.

However, in a post on its Facebook page Wednesday night, the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union said:

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“By Order of the Court dated 13th March, 2023 the Claimants never ceased to be entitled to hold the respective offices of public officers, whether it be as a teacher, customs officer, police officer or otherwise.

“You are therefore advised to peaceably return to your place of work to recommence your duties immediately.”

The union advised the workers that on reporting for duty, they should report to their immediate supervisor “and should you encounter any issues please convey them to your respective Union/ Association”.

One source told iWitness News that lawyers for the government has concluded that in light of the court ruling and in the absence of a stay of execution of the judgment, the workers will be considered as having abandoned their jobs if they do not report to work or produce a sick leave notice within 10 days of the court ruling.

On Wednesday, the unions met with the affected workers via Zoom and agreed to hold a joint press conference on Friday at the Methodist Church Hall, in Kingstown, at 2 p.m.

The meeting will be attended by the unions’ legal team and union leaders.

“This is one of the first events after the court victory where we are going to sensitise and mobilise not only ourselves but the masses,” Oswald Robinson, president of the SVG Teachers Union told the Zoom gathering.

He urged the workers who have been directly affected by the mandate, their colleagues and relatives to attend the press event.

“Come out in your numbers. We can’t appear to be weak,” the Teachers’ Union leader said.

“On Monday, if for some reason the government decides to proceed with the appeal which they have been threatening, then we want to have a picket in Kingstown on the 21st,” Robinson said, adding that the proposed venue is in front of the Financial Complex, which houses the Office of the Prime Minister.

Robinson said the Teachers’ Union and the PSU will find a way to get the input of the Police Welfare Association.

“You know the Police Welfare Association cannot be so visible in some of these activities because of the nature of their services and their responsibility as a military, so to speak.

“But we are going to do a joint statement and that joint statement is to call on the government to obey the judgment in the court.”

Meanwhile, Elroy Boucher, president of the PSU, told the meeting that the unions “want to get everybody on board”.

He said people should not just stay “in their backroom” and say that the government should not appeal the judgment.

“… but let that presence be felt. We are going to make an attempt to get as many persons on board as possible. The news people, their editorials, we are going to try and have a conversation because this is going to move from point A to point B, unless the government pulls back,” Boucher said.

He said he had been told that the government is reconsidering its decision to appeal.

“I have been informed that there is a contemplation on pulling back, that some calculations were made on how much money would be required and I understand it is 12 point something million.

“They are doing their work. They know what is happening and prolonging it further, it is going to cost more. But we have to apply the pressure …” Boucher said.

He noted that in the early stages when the unions called on their members to apply pressure on the government to prevent the mandate from coming into effect “we could not get the support of even all of the persons who were affected.

“I know people have different dispositions. I am a Christian too but God gave me a spirit of bravery that allows me to fight wrong and injustice,” Boucher told the meeting.

“And so, there comes a time when you have to fight wrong and injustice. And this injustice is even more cruel … this is even worse than before because a court has pronounced…”

Boucher said he knows that banks have been knocking on dismissed workers’ doors.

“It is time that you get your money to deal with all of those issues. So, we have to apply the pressure. So, we are going to call on you also give support to what we are trying to do,” the union leader said.

“There are plenty of us. Whether you are back on the job or you are not, just tag the next person to come and support and let us try and bring the pressure that can result in the government doing the right thing and complying with the court order.”

He said the union will try its best “to push through, to force the acceptance of this ruling”.

The PSU and Teachers Union have won all the cases they have brought against the Ralph Gonsalves-led Unity Labour Party government but Boucher said this ruling is “comprehensive”.

“I have never seen such before; never seen such before. I have never seen a judge specifically speak to special damages to prevent any such thing from happening again,” Boucher said.

“That is only to tell you how serious this matter is and how seriously the judge looked at it. That should give us strength. But hear you, our strength also comes from Almighty God. So let us stand up and fight to ensure that you get what is justly yours and the suffering comes to an end.”

One reply on “Unions tell dismissed workers to return to their jobs”

  1. Anthony G Stewart says:

    The workers are doing the right thing by taking up their job. The learned judge made the right and just ruling. We all need to comply. Our country needs to be returned to stability. Spitefulness and victimization must end now. Papa needs to respect the ruling and take his licks like a big man. While the workers are on the job he can still appeal. In the meantime we appeal to Caesar to release Papa to do what he loves best; litigation and academics.

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