Union calls teachers to protest govt’s vaccination policy
KINGSTOWN, St Vincent (CMC):
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has accused the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union (SVGTU) of using students as a “battering ram” against his administration as the union called on its members to take industrial action from Tuesday.
The union had previously called on its members, vaccinated and unvaccinated, to attend physical and online classes on Monday and to stay away from the all face-to-face and online classes on Tuesday and Wednesday.
It also advised teachers to continue with all normal work on Thursday and to picket at the Vegetable Market in Kingstown and Union Island, and the administrative building in Canouan and Bequia on Friday.
“All COVID-19 protocols will be strictly enforced at the picket line,” the union said, adding that “the SVGTU strongly advises all of its unvaccinated members to continue to report to work and to keep photographic records as evidence of your presence. If you are issued any formal communication concerning your employment status, submit a copy to the office of the SVGTU immediately.
“The SVGTU is kindly calling on all parents to keep their children at home on Tuesday 7th and Wednesday 8th and to join in solidarity with the SVGTU on the picket line on Friday 10th December, 2021. We will further advise all of our members as we intensify our plan of actions,” the SVGTU added.
The move by the union comes as the government COVID-19 mandatory vaccine policy went into effect on November 19.
As of last Friday, public sector workers who are yet to take the jab even as they have not received an exemption on religious or medical grounds, are considered to have abandoned their jobs.
But Gonsalves said he wanted “to assure” parents that all schools, primary and secondary, the Community College, as well as early learning centres will operate as normal.
ACTING OUTSIDE OF THE FRAMEWORK
“And this thing about asking parents not to send their children to school, I mean, that’s a non-starter,” Gonsalves said, adding “I just want to tell the parents, look, the teachers can’t have it every which way. I am talking about those teachers who have decided not to take the vaccine.
“We can’t have a set of persons who want to act outside of the framework of what a duly elected government, acting on behalf of the people that what is being done and decide that you’re going to seek to disrupt education of the children.
“That’s not gonna happen. That’s not gonna be permitted. And it is entirely unreasonable and unacceptable for any teacher who is vaccinated to say that they are going to sit out or sit in, or whatever. You don’t work with yourself. You are not doing a favour for gratis.”
Gonsalves said that Vincentians are “in solidarity’ with teachers “by paying you for working, by giving you many, many benefits.
“Look, in the educational system, what do we have? We have a partnership between the state, the government, the parents, the community, the teachers and the students and everybody operating under the suzerainty of Almighty God.”
He said that teachers who “want to be unreasonable cannot hold that partnership to ransom” and that the issue of COVID-19 vaccination has been under discussion for a very long time, noting that the draft regulations were published in mid-July and announced in mid-October.