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Oswald Robinson, left,  has been re-elected president of the SVG Teachers' Union, trouncing incumbent 1st President, Nicole Martindale
Oswald Robinson, left, has been re-elected president of the SVG Teachers’ Union, trouncing incumbent 1st President, Nicole Martindale
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Members of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union have re-elected Oswald Robinson as their president in a vote that followed a controversy triggered by the contender, Nicole Martindale.

The union’s election committee did not disclose the vote tally when it announced the preliminary election results on Wednesday.

However, figures obtained by iWitness News show that Robinson, a retired educator, amassed 677 votes, compared to 384 for Martindale, the incumbent first vice-president, a teacher at CW Prescod Primary School.

Vanrick Williams was elected 1st vice president, narrowly beating out the incumbent 2nd vice president, Abdon Whyte by two votes – 516 to 514.

Williams is returning to the position two years after Martindale defeated him.

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Yokanne Blugh-Holder was elected 2nd vice president, having defeated Lesha Benjamin 535 to 393.

Ketty Kydd-Rhynd retained her position as general secretary, staving off her challenger, Andrea Durrant, 603 t0 442.

Tishanna Reid stood unopposed for the post of assistant general secretary and gained 806 votes.

Similarly, Meriah Samuel received 835 votes as the sole candidate to be treasurer and Public Relations Officer Fiona Charles received 852 votes.

The committee members are Anthony Compton and Reba Cozier, who received 380, and 370 votes, respectively.

The other challengers, Shakeena Barbour-Simmons, Samantha Cordice, Attika James and Florence Samuel received 184, 320, 268, and 212 votes.

In a call to WE FM’s “Issue at Hand” on Sunday, Martindale explained her reasons for challenging Robinson for the leadership of the union.

Among the issues she raised was the alleged failure of the union to give to teachers dismissed under the government’s COVID-19 vaccinate mandate, monies raised during a joint radiothon.

The radiothon was held by the Teachers’ Union, the Public Service Union and the Police Welfare Association in collaboration with the opposition New Democratic Party.

“… I believe approximately $20,000 was pledged. … the SVGTU, we got $1,800 from that. And I want the dismissed teachers to listen. That money was not given to the dismissed teachers as promised,” she said.

“So, when you say you’re standing for a particular group of people and you reassure them that this is what I’m going to do for you and get for you, and you don’t give it to them, that’s problematic. That says something,” Martindale said.

However, the Teachers’ Union and the Public Service Union held a joint press conference on Monday saying that the money was used as intended. 

Charles said that while EC$20,000 was pledged during the radiothon, only EC$10,000 was actually received and it was divided among the three unions.

“Now, let me make it abundantly clear that … one person does not make any statement or any decision on behalf of the union,” Charles said.

“What should have happened was that things should have been done in such a way that it does not bring the union into disrepute.”

Robinson explained that the union’s portion of the donation, when divided among the number of affected teachers, was so small that the unions decided to hold the money until it had received additional resources.

“So, it was the executive that made that decision to put that money aside until we are able to attract funds to give to our teachers,” he said.

“It must be known that the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union has been coming to the assistance and supporting the teachers who were dismissed in many, many ways because we took a holistic approach in which we provide support, provided monetary support for teachers,” Robinson said.

He said the union gave each affected teacher EC$250, amounting to about $53,000.

“It’s unfortunate that something could be put in the media like unaccountability or transparency. That’s not what happened,” he said, adding that the union’s money is accounted for and its accounts audited.

Meanwhile, Elroy Boucher, president of the Public Service Union said at the press conference that he is aware that EC$20,000 was pledged but just over EC$10,000 was actually donated.

“The record would show that the Public Service Union received $4,022 … the Teachers’ Union received the same amount $4,002 and the Police Welfare Association received $2,000.”

He said the Public Service Union distributed its portion based on an assessment of the needs of the affected members.

“… it’s really an unfortunate situation that a member of the executive will seem not to have the information, would make statements that can implicate other unions and even organisations at a time when the grave concern, the focus was on people who are suffering to use this particular matter or personal gain, to advance your chance,” Boucher said.

He said the Teachers’ Union, Public Service Union and the Police Welfare Association have been working together to advance the cause of their membership.

“Therefore, it’s important that we continue to stand and I will appeal to whoever is elected, it is important that we continue to stand together and in solidarity because the issues that we are addressing are greater than what I consider … statements that are unfounded and tend to distract from the pain and suffering of so many,” Boucher said.