St. Vincent labor union warns of “radical action” if dismissed teachers not reinstated

The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union (SVGTU) has warned it will embark upon “radical action” if teachers fired from their jobs last December over the coronavirus (COVID-19) mandate are not reinstated within two weeks.

Speaking on a radio program, SVGTU president, Oswald Robinson said the position of the union remains the same and the teachers should be re-instated.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, speaking on another radio program, said his government will consider rehiring the teachers if there is no surge in COVID-19 cases this week, following last week’s conclusion of Vincymas, the first carnival celebration there since 2019.

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But Gonsalves, who himself tested positive for the virus that has killed 114 and infected 9,083 others in St. Vincent since March 2020, said other issues including the response of vaccinated teachers, parents of students, and the advice of the chief medical officer and other government authorities will have to be considered.

Robinson, however, said he knew Prime Minister Gonsalves would have made such a statement after having raised the matter with him last Wednesday.

He said he hopes that the teachers who were fired over the vaccine mandate “that this time you will stand with the union and those who are in the classroom you will stand because, as I said, we are not going to leave any stones unturned.

“Our position is that the teachers must be reinstated,” Robinson said, adding there is a fundamental difference between re-hiring and reinstating a teacher, noting that rehiring means that the teacher is starting afresh, and this will affect their pension and gratuity benefits.

Robinson said the St. Vincent Teachers’ Union is concerned about quality education and wants the nation’s children to get the best. He said he decided not to say anything public about the discussions with Prime Minister Gonsalves until the radio show hosted by the union on Sunday.

Robinson said this is another opportunity for teachers who were deemed to have resigned their jobs after not taking the vaccine “to stand up and those who are in the classroom.”

Last Friday, the Barbados-based U.S. Embassy announced the delivery of nearly 4,800 children’s doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the Ministry of Health said the pediatric vaccines will be available across the country from Monday.

Robinson said when he spoke with Prime Minister Gonsalves last week, the donation of the vaccines and Carnival had been mentioned.

“The issue of carnival, I said to the prime minister, everybody jumping up together, there was hardly anybody wearing masks. So, the whole conversation about from a pandemic to endemic, we had that conversation.

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