Sisters and brothers, warmest greetings on behalf of the National Executive and staff of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union (SVGTU) on the occasion of Teachers’ Solidarity Week which is observed each year in the month of November, in commemoration of the Teachers’ Union’s historic struggle since 1975.
This year’s week of activities runs from Sunday, November 12 to Saturday, the 18th under the theme: “Defending Workers’ Rights: An Imperative for a Democratic and Progressive Society.”
Forty-two years ago the SVGTU began an important battle in defence of the rights of workers which was critical for democracy and the development of the Vincentian Society. The SVGTU salutes and cherishes this great legacy and reaffirms its resolve in defending the rights of workers which we believe is ‘an imperative for a Democratic and Progressive Society’.
In 1975 the SVGTU fought for the following: Improvement of the physical conditions in schools, increase in salary for teachers, the negotiation of a collective agreement, the payment of a promised $750 back pay, and the repeal of the 1971 Public Service Act. These issues are still quite relevant and are synonymous with the union’s current battles.
We must appreciate and acknowledge that although the teachers suffered from the actions under the Milton Cato Government in 1975 by being jailed, transferred to so-called “Hard Areas”, fired and tear-gassed; and that coupled with the promises of the two political parties in their quest for power; the collective efforts of the teachers brought forth success for the education system and the Vincentian Society.
The birth of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Co-operative Credit Union, the protection of benefits for teachers, the defence of fundamental rights and freedoms, the right to organize and to belong to a trade union — just to name a few — were a direct result of the battles of the SVGTU. Today the Teachers’ Union remains committed and dedicated to this cause.
As a union, we religiously advocate for a healthy and safe working environment for students, teachers and workers in general. We have participated and made invaluable contributions at the consultations on the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Bill which has just been passed as an Act in the House of Parliament.
The SVGTU commends all the other stakeholders who contributed to this very important legislation as well as the parliamentarians for unanimously passing it. The implementation of the OSH Act is very much welcomed by the SVGTU as it will further empower us to continue to advocate the Decent Work Agenda. In addition, the union continues to make representation for salary increases, appointment of all teachers within a reasonable time, legal representation and the implementation of the Master Teacher as enshrined in the Collective Agreement between the Government of SVG and the SVGTU.
Furthermore, the SVGTU remains committed to quality education, and continues to provide professional development experiences for teachers. We have worked with other stakeholders and introduced Inclusive Education, Pre-primary Education, Information Communication Technology and most recently, Technical Vocational and Educational Training.
Training of teachers in the teaching of Science, Mathematics and Language Arts continues to be a priority area and forms part of our quest for quality teachers. It must be noted that work ethics also forms an integral part of the professional development of the worker and the Union has religiously addressed this area through its annual In-service Training Workshops, its media programmes and its visits to educational institutions. The Union will continue to promote professionalism because it is also essential for a progressive society.
The SVGTU is also concerned with the following: the increase in crime and violence, shortage of male teachers, absence of rights for teachers in the Education Act #34, 2006, teachers retiring without a government pension, the extended waiting time for pension under the National Insurance Services (NIS), increasing critical illness among teachers, the lack of a stipend for those teachers in training at the Division of Teacher Education at the SVG Community College, and the need for compensation from the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) for teachers who mark School Based Assessment (SBA) projects, just to mention a few.
In conclusion, I urged us to support Solidarity Week 2017 by reflecting on the events of 1975 as well as the contemporary issues affecting us as teachers and as workers. Let us participate in the week of activities as a show of appreciation for our history and a collective vision in defending our rights for a democratic and progressive society.
Hand in Hand! United Stand !
Long live the SVGTU! Long live the teachers of the SVGTU!
May God continue to bless you!