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Opposition Leader and NDP President, Godwin Friday, left, speaks with the party candidate Andrew John and his wife, Cheryl John, at John’s launch as the party’s candidate for South Windward in Biabou on Saturday, March 9, 2024.
Opposition Leader and NDP President, Godwin Friday, left, speaks with the party candidate Andrew John and his wife, Cheryl John, at John’s launch as the party’s candidate for South Windward in Biabou on Saturday, March 9, 2024.
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Opposition Leader Godwin Friday has praised his party’s new candidate for South Windward for his pro-choice stance as the government moved, in 2021, to mandate COVID-19 jabs for teachers and other public sector workers.

Andrew John, a retired educator who was at the time the Industrial Relations Officer at the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union, was launched, on Saturday, as the NDP’s candidate in the district.

“He was there on the front lines, protecting the rights of persons, teachers, who were fired by this government or threatened at the time to be fired because they did not take the vaccine,” Friday told the launch in Biabou on Saturday. 

John defeated environmental scientist Andrew Simmons in a primary in January to emerge as the candidate.

Friday said that with the vaccine mandate, the government was “forcing the people to put something in their bodies and tell you, ‘you have to choose between your body and your bread’.

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“And for those people who said, ‘No, I cannot do it’, they tell them you have to go home.”

The government deemed hundreds of public sector workers who did not take the jab as having resigned their positions and forfeited their benefits.

“Andrew was out there fighting for them. The government — Ralph Gonsalves and the ULP, they want you to forget that. They want you to pretend like it didn’t happen.

“They want you now to say that somehow that was not the reality of the lives of so many teachers and public servants and nurses who suffered because of that policy,” the opposition leader said.

He said he knows teachers in his constituency, Northern Grenadines, “right now who are catching hell, because the government still, even after the court said you were wrong, will not relent.”

The Teachers’ Union, Public Service Union, and the Police Welfare Association took the government to court over the dismissals linked to the vaccine mandate.

On March 13, 2023, the High Court ruled that the government acted illegally and that the dismissed workers never stopped holding their posts.

The government has appealed that ruling, and the hearing of the appeal, which was slated for Feb. 1 was adjourned that day after one of the members of the panel who was scheduled to hear and determine the matter was unable to sit as part of the panel, the court said.

Friday said the government wants “to prove that they’re wrong and strong”, hence the appeal.

“And when they go to the court to hear the appeal, they want extension. This is something that we have to hold them accountable for.

“With Andrew John here, you will never be allowed to forget what this government did to our teachers, what this vaccine mandate policy that puts so many people out of bread.”

Godwin Friday
Opposition Leader and NDP President, Godwin Friday speaks at the launch of Andrew John as the party’s candidate for South Windward in Biabou on Saturday, March 9, 2024.

He noted that he had committed before, “but now of course, I will have a constant reminder of it with Andrew around, that the New Democratic Party and government will not wait for any appeal from the court.

“As soon as we take office, one of our first acts is to instruct the Attorney General to discontinue any appeal. Let these people get back to their jobs.

Friday said an NDP government would go further.

“We will do what the court said. That is to say, those people were never fired, they must be put back in the position they were in on the day when the government send them home.

“That is what is right. That is what is just. That is what Andrew was fighting for. That is what we will implement under a New Democratic Party government. I want good teachers back in the classroom. And I want fairness and justice throughout this land. And that is what we will deliver.”

Friday said that he, like the people of South Windward, has confidence in John.

“When we go home from this spot here tonight, we must spread that message. This is the man that will bring the change for this South Windward constituency. He will help us to form government,” Friday said.

“And then he will deliver on those things that matter most to you. All of the things in his constituency that he is so familiar with because he lives here, he works here. He played sports. He supports sports teams here.

“He knows this constituency intimately. And he has Noel behind him as well to help him to bring the interests of the people of this constituency to our table when we are deciding what we’re going to do as a government and I will listen to him because I know that you, the people of South Windward deserve better,” Friday said.

“I know that Andrew will deliver better, you can count on me to deliver better, place your confidence in him, place your confidence in me, place your confidence in this team that we’re putting together. And let us build up our confidence in our country. Let’s bring back hope to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Let’s get it done,” the opposition leader said.

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