On the occasion of the 43rd Anniversary of the commemoration of the 1975 historic Teachers’ strike, I extend fondest greetings to all.
It gives me immense pleasure to address you as we celebrate Teachers’ Solidarity Week 2018 under the theme “The Right to an Education means the Right to a Qualified Teacher.’ As teachers, we are called to know the importance of excellent pedagogical skills; to engage our students to be creative thinkers so they can become critical thinkers; to strive to be a beacon of hope to our nation; to not settle for mediocre performance; to continue to reflect on the vision of our trailblazers for “maintenance of high professional, ethical and moral standards among all our membership.”
A qualified teacher is not only limited to our certificates or degrees, though paper qualification is important, a qualified teacher must also demonstrate the passion, sense of care and feel of community, positive values, attitudes, and a nurturing spirit.
The SVGTU wishes to record its appreciation for the dedication, commitment, and sacrifice of the several union stalwarts who were arrested 43 years ago simply because they loyally and in solidarity stood up for the rights of members. We have much to celebrate, and much to reflect upon pertaining to how well we have progressed over the years. These heroes were advocates who served with passion in the interest of SVGTU and its members. On the altar of the sacrifice, these trade union leaders handed us this Union for us to continue to build.
They were arrested, transferred, dismissed, and victimized for our sustenance, in the hope that we will change St Vincent and the Grenadines and usher in a better future for the generations to come. We cannot afford to destroy the hope and faith that they have unflinchingly and selflessly bestowed on us. Let us strive to do our bit with the courage, devotion, and dedication it deserves!
Throughout its 115-year history, the members of the SVGTU have worked assiduously to improve the working and learning conditions at schools in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
As members of the SVGTU, it ought to be our proud responsibility and committed obligation to protect our Union and its image, a responsibility, and commitment which we ought to carry out with pride. In carrying that out we ought to be loyal by doing whatever we can to improve the quality of life and enhance harmony amongst each other.
Colleagues, our Union’s motto, “Hand in Hand United Stand”, will continue to be the guiding principle of our members. We will continue to embrace partnerships, co-operation, and collaboration. Our patriotism to SVG is lifelong and manifests itself in the quality work we do in and outside of the classroom as we advance the holistic development of our children and young people. We will continue to go beyond the call of duty to achieve this goal. The National Executive of the SVGTU acknowledges, with deep gratitude, the critical role you all play, as well as, the steadfast service and dedication you continue to demonstrate as professionals in executing your duties.
St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union has withstood the test of time and has seen many changes in administration. It, however, remains a strong Trade Union fighting for the rights of its members and developing leaders throughout the education system. This is no easy feat and on behalf of the National Executive, I salute the members of the SVGTU for their steadfastness over the years.
My dear colleagues, we are mindful of the struggles presently facing our members, as we struggle to protect our economic livelihood in the face of oppressive and burdensome taxes, dwindling disposable incomes, escalating cost of living, poor working conditions, and no new collective bargaining agreement.
On January 24, 2017, a joint proposal for a salary increase was submitted to the Minister of Finance by the Public Service Union and St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union. Another letter was sent on September 5th, 2018. To date, we have received any responses from the government. We are alarmed with the way in which our communication to the government is met with silence. We view this non-acknowledgment of correspondence as unprofessional at best, and not in keeping with expected good labor relations’ protocol.
The longstanding government practice of avoiding genuine negotiation is unacceptable and we hope that we can restart genuine negotiations as it relates to salary increases, pension reform and other pertinent issues affecting government employees.
The last time any real negotiations took place was in 1999 when the trade union leaders engaged in salary negotiations. Since then, whenever the government increased the salaries of its workers, by a shockingly paltry amount, it has done so unilaterally thus defeating the whole purpose of social dialogue. For over thirteen years, the SVGTU has had no new collective bargaining agreement. All of our requests for a new collective bargaining agreement have gone unheeded.
Despite the difficulties, as a trade union, it is important for us to position ourselves to influence and be a part of shaping our National Development. Being led by a committed, dedicated and passionate team we are poised to transform and achieve the desired outcomes, which are strategic and relevant to the environment today and in the future. Our members are ardently encouraged to be vigilant and guard against anyone seeking to undermine the trade union movement. We must never compromise our ideals! Let us organize ourselves to remain relevant and resilient and recognize that the future of work, the future of the Education System, lies in our hands.
During this and every Teachers Solidarity Week, our members are fully entitled to reflect, show camaraderie, and celebrate the historic gains that we have made. I urge you to be gallant in your fight for improved working conditions as we celebrate under the theme “The Right to an Education means the Right to a Qualified Teacher.
As teachers, we are the strongest link in the education chain, and we should be treated better. Let us all, however, continue to use our education, skills, and talent for the betterment of education in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
May we have a successful Teachers Solidarity Week!
Long live SVGTU!