P. John’s Response to Concerns Raised by a Retired Member of SVGTU
I take this opportunity to respond to “Concerned Retired Member” who shared some concerns about the SVG Teachers Union in an article published by The Vincentian on December 06, 2019 under the caption, “Sorry, I must leave”.
Like him/her, I have had some serious problems with the manner in which the SVGTU has been led over the past decade or so. The National Executive, the General Council and the General Membership are all aware of my concerns. I have articulated them at every opportunity and in every forum made available to me by my union. The records will show that, even if they are only in the form of “scrappy minutes and reports” as highlighted by Concerned Retired Member (CRM).
Among the several concerns that I have raised within recent times, is the collective attitude and activities of so-called members in the ilk of CRM. They form part of a backward cabal who seek only the advancement of their personal interests and desires using the union as their primary vehicle to do so. Imagine, therefore, my relief when CRM claims that for the sake of their health, they “must leave”! I say to them, “Thanks, but you must leave now!”
In their piece, CRM opens with an unjustified and unsupported swipe at the president and the rest of the executive. They suggest that somehow the president has her team under some kind of spell rendering them “afraid to speak up”. They further sleazily insinuate that the executive members are only in it for the stipend. The point about it is this, the current executive has been the most productive and successful in the past ten years. For those who, like CRM, are prepared to say otherwise bring your proof and come.
In paragraph 2, CRM poses five questions as follows:
- Are decisions made by the president outside of constituted meetings?
- Do the president and the general secretary want to have all the say, while the other executive members appear dumb?
- Have the original staff been relieved of their regular duties, to the point of frustration?
- Are major financial matters executed without the knowledge of the elected treasurer?
- Do executive members occupy local hotel rooms during regional conferences hosted in SVG, and the union has to foot the bill?
The simple answer to all of these questions is a resounding NO! There is a paper trail for every decision taken by the union. To the extent that CRM may have been successful in raising some doubts in members’ mind, I urge you to visit the office and scrutinize the reports and minutes. In fact, CRM is making some groundless accusations in the form of “questions”. Not only are the accusations groundless some are also libelous. No wonder the missive is published under the inane pseudonym “Concerned retired member”. They lack the gonads to declare their identity even as they appear to be on a quest to destroy the reputation of an organization for which they claim undying love.
The trend continues in the third paragraph, more lies, more innuendos. Contrary to what CRM asserts about the stewards, it is this executive that recently revived the Stewards Council; I am the past executive member “who failed to function”, that I am prepared to concede. However, I am also now one of several advisors working with the membership, at every level, to bring the union back from where leaders in the ilk of CRM were recently taking it.
In that same paragraph, CRM claims that “reports are presented to general meetings with no financial statements”. This is a patent lie! Pertinent financial data have been presented for every meeting that I have attended since this executive took office. There was an issue in the most recently held general meeting where the treasurer did not prepare the usual financial report. He had tendered his resignation a few weeks prior to the meeting. The executive in its wisdom commissioned the auditing firm KDLT to conduct a financial audit. That work was not complete in time for the meeting. So, in the interim the executive presented a summary of the financial status of the union pending the completion of the audit by KDLT.
The irony of this situation is this: The past treasurer is a retired member just like CRM. I have no doubt that they are in close and regular contact with each other. Perhaps, CRM should have consulted with him before penning his diatribe. In the meantime, like many others I await the outcome of the audit. As advisor, I make a call to have the report widely circulated.
I share CRM’s sentiments as expressed in the opening of paragraph 4 of their article. Like them, we are committed to paying our dues to ensure “the continuation of this noble organization”. Unfortunately, we part company when in the succeeding sentences, CRM continues with their groundless and outlandish claims. It seems to me that CRM is probably a long serving member of the union’s leadership with a questionable agenda. Thus, it is probably better for them to leave.
CRM’s missive comes to a dismal end in paragraph 5. They repeat their unwarranted attack on the current executive and inexplicably links their functioning to the state of CRM’s health. Apart from being confusing, the link is a tad unfair. They call for a drastic change! What the public should know is that since taking office the current executive has already implemented significant positive changes and more are underway as reflected in a menu of initiatives undertaken. This short list immediately comes to mind:
- Providing training for all leaders and potential leaders of the union including stewards;
- Reviving the 10 district branches that make up the organization
- Re-organizing and expanding the number of standing committees
- Reviving the once dormant General Council
- Recruiting highly qualified and professional staff in the areas of administration and industrial relations
- Assembling a committee to review and recommend changes to the union’s constitution
- Conducting the first comprehensive forensic financial audit of the union
- Devising new fiscal policies for the financial governance of the union
- Re-engaging the government in negotiations for a new collective agreement
- Modernising the membership cards and expanding the list of entities that provide discounted goods and services to members
- Negotiating a comprehensive insurance programme for teachers that covers life, health, home and vehicle with Beacon Insurance
- Establishing a broad based committee to manage the Union Critical Illness Fund
- Working with Public Service Union (PSU), and the Police Welfare Association (PWA) to devise an approach to the issue of pension reform;
- Hosting in August 2019, one of the most successful and well attended biennial conference of the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT)
- Hosting Branch Day as a day of family, fun and festivity;
- Establishing the Wall of Fame that recognises the contribution of past presidents
- Recognizing through an impressive award ceremony, the contribution of long standing retired members
- Convening the first ever All Committees Meeting of the SVGTU
- Improve markedly the public relations and communications programme of the SVGTU
- Successfully began the process of re-branding the SVGTU
Now, this is just a tiny snapshot of the trajectory of the SVGTU since this executive took office. People like CRM should be proud to be a part of it. I am pretty sure that truth be told, the current successes can also be attributed to the work and contribution of retired members. Unfortunately, for reasons unbeknownst to us, some of them have become “vain and bitter”. Thus, many of these changes and progressive initiatives have resulted in the discomfiture of CRM and their backward cabal. Their insipid piece is therefore a half-baked attempt to remain relevant.
CRM and all those they represent, all three of them, must leave! The new and emerging SVGTU will advance without you!
Philbert J. John
Several years ago in my first year at the St. Vincent Grammar School, I was ordered to write 500 lines by my beloved geography teacher, Mr Terry Cole. This was his strategy for dealing with some infraction on my part. I cannot remember the behaviour that Mr Cole was trying to correct. But, I remember his punishment as if it were yesterday.
I think it started with a paltry 100. And for reasons I still cannot recall, the number reached up to 500. Yes, 500 lines! Now, these had to be, as Mr Cole put it, “continuous lines”! This meant that I was not given a sentence to write out repeatedly for 500 times. Instead, I had to write in continuous prose until the desired number of lines in my big hard cover notebook were filled…500! We solved the problem of what to write by copying the contents of a textbook until we reached the desired number of lines…in this case, 500!
I can’t recall how long it took me to complete that assignment. But, I do remember this: Mr Cole came to collect and I was not quite finished. In the exchange, I somehow let it slip that my mother assisted me. Big mistake! Mr Cole berated me and had me start all over! I cried like a baby.
I have been teaching for 36 plus years now and I DO NOT give students lines to write. I think it is a stupid form of punishment! Parents should unite and rebel against it.
By the way, Mr Terry Cole is still one of my favourite teachers of all times. I have fond memories of his geography classes.
How far should our teachers go when it comes to dressing for the classroom? I refer particularly to our female teachers. They are the ones who tend to raise some eyebrows in this regard.
Despite the widely held notion that teachers are expected to be the standard bearers of conservatism in conduct and appearance, a growing number of our teachers have rejected this, especially the dress part. Instead, it’s all about the latest fashion; it’s all about being seen as sexy; and in the world of social media, it’s all about attracting “likes”!
In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the competent authorities have set clear rules on how public officers, including teachers, are expected to dress for work. According to the Civil Service Orders, the following mode of dress is acceptable for women:
Dresses of sober style and cut. Pants suits and pants with tops.
Shoes – no slippers.
Some may convincingly argue that the Civil Service Orders are woefully out of date and are not befitting the times in which we now live. Hence, we must prepare to embrace contemporary style and fashion in the workplace.
For some teachers, modern fashion means the skimpiest of the skimpy dresses; the shortest of short skirts; the tightest of tight pants and the exposure of as much bare skin as the market can bear. I must admit that they all tend to look absolutely fantastic, gorgeous, beautiful and indeed sexy!
The questions remain: Are these teachers going too far? Should the authorities put some limit on how sexy our female teachers are permitted to present themselves in the classroom?
Please, tell me, how sexy are teachers permitted to be?
There are several terrible teachers at work in our schools today. at they are unfit for purpose! Yet, they are called teachers. In all fairness, I do not think that many of the so called want to be teachers. Nevertheless, they are here wreaking havoc in the system.
I have racked my brain trying to figure out what could be responsible for the dismal performances so evident among many persons who call themselves teachers. Indeed, it is extremely difficult for me to come up with answers. Furthermore, it would take much more than this blog to catalogue the litany of concerns with many of today’s teachers. What I can do in the meantime, however, is to make a list of critical personality traits that I would like to see demonstrated by fellow teachers.
Without giving it much thought, the following spring to mind immediately:
Of course, there are several teachers in our classrooms who demonstrate these traits and more. I work with some of them. They must be commended, encouraged and rewarded. Unfortunately, their work often go unnoticed.
As the government proceeds to increase the salaries of public sector workers, after a lapse of several years, the notion of ”regular increments” has been inserted into the narrative, again. The point presumably being made is this: Even without a general increase in salaries during the period, public servants have been receiving regular increments each year without fail. This is absolutely correct. The problem is, however, every public servant does not get an annual increment.
Public sector workers on the permanent establishment are generally paid according to a scale. This means that when one is first appointed to a named post, he/she is paid at the start, the minimum salary associated with that post. Then, a small increase is granted each year until the maximum salary becomes payable. Depending on the post, it takes between four and seven years to earn the maximum.
It is safe to assume that the vast majority of public servants have reached the maximum salary payable in their respective posts. The only hope for any further increase, barring a promotion, is a general enhancement in salaries across the board. Consider the table below with examples from the teaching profession.
Source: SVG Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure 2018
Anyone holding any of these posts for a period in excess of the listed number of years is NOT entitled to any further annual increase. In the case of the education sector, this may well amount to hundreds of teachers.
Any attempt to give the impression that increments are paid across the board on an annual basis is misleading. Perhaps, the government and the unions should begin to consider whether increments should be automatic, as they currently are, or whether they should be granted based on performance. That is another issue!
The National Student Loan Programme has published a list of names and addresses of persons who have apparently defaulted on student loans over the years. In a press release carried in the Searchlight on Friday July 28, 2017, a number of persons were asked to contact the Ministry of Education by August 31, 2017. While the release did not specifically identify these persons as defaulters, it is generally assumed that they are being summoned to make good on their commitments to the programme.
There were 112 persons named on the published list. It comprised 76 males and 36 females. The listed addresses indicated a spread throughout the entire country. The graphic below shows the distribution according to constituencies. One person’s address was listed as Canada.
The publication of this list has generated quite a lot of discussion on social media. Some person are totally against the move to, as they put it, “name and shame” our young people. Then, there are those who think that it was neecessary to bring attention to what is emerging as an important isssue.
It would be interesting to find out why so many persons have chosen to default on loans granted to them to pursue studies. Is it a question of inability to pay back? Or, is it a question of unwillingness to pay. Whatever the situation, it must be negatively impacting on the sustainability of the National Student Loan Programme.
Most, if not all, of the persons named on the list are gainfully employed right here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Others have apparently migrated in search of better opportunities. Whatever the case, they clearly do not consider repayment of their student loan to be high on their list of priorities. It does not matter to them that refusal to pay puts the progammme in jeopardy and stymies the chances of other young people seeking to finance their college and university education.
As a grateful beneficiary of similar student loans in the past, both as a student and as the parent of a student, I am in full support of any measure taken by the authorities to get persons to honour their debts in this regard,
To those who have criticized the publication of the list, I say, stop complaining! If there is anyone whom you know on the list, call them up and urge them to meet their commitments. It is the patriotic thing to do.
Finally, if any of the defaulters are reading this, do the right thing and pay up!
Over the past biennium, some members of the SVGTU executive have worked very hard in advancing the interests of the union and its membership. They are now seeking re-election. In this article, I wish to offer my sincere endorsement for these candidates. I think that they should be given the opportunity to serve again. I refer to no other persons but Cain, Doyle and Bynoe, three sterling stalwarts of the outgoing executive.
The first among these stalwarts is Bro Kent Cain. He served as as 2nd vice-president on the outgoing executive and now seeks re-election to that position. Bro Kent has been a faithful and committed member of the executive. He gave solid support and has acquitted himself as a dependable team player. Brother Kent also showed his mettle during the recent impasse with the government. He gave full support to the cause of the union amidst pressure from many of his colleagues. The union needs committed foot soldiers and generals like Bro Kent. He should be returned to office.
Then, there is Sis Sharon Doyle. Sharon served as a committee member and she now seeks re-election. I have known Sharon for many years. As far as I could tell, she has never missed a union activity of significance. Sis Sharon is perhaps one of the most dependable members I have come across. As committee member, she has been the one to cover for the often absent Jane Farrell and fulfill her duties. On many occasions, Sharon has been the one who took minutes whenever Jane failed or refused to show up. We need people like Sharon Doyle back on the executive. Give her your support!
Finally, the current PRO Sis Wendy Bynoe is seeking re-election to that post. In the interest of full disclosure, I consider Wendy a friend. I must therefore declare my bias in her favour. My personal feelings not withstanding, very few would disagree that Sis Wendy has done an outstanding job as public relations officer during her tenure. She made SVGTU a household name; she has been the voice and face of the union; during the recent impasse with the government Wendy took a lot of flak from those in high authority and even a few misguided and disgruntled members. But, she bore it all with poise and dignity. Even without my endorsement, Sis Wendy Bynoe has done more than enough to merit re-election. Give her your full support!
Along with Bro Oswald Robinson, who seeks re-election as president, Bro Kent Cain, Sister Sharon Doyle and Sister Wendy Bynoe constitute the elements on the outgoing executive who worked extremely hard and made great personal sacrifices for the cause of our union. They represented the stable influence and the forward advance that the union attempted over the past biennium. They now seek re-election. I therefore urge all members to give them your full support without reservation or hesitation.
Philbert “Peejohn” John
It’s election time for the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU). On February 17 and 18, 2016, members of the union will vote for a new executive. I continue to urge all members of the union to vote. But, before you do, you must thoroughly assess the candidates. In this article, I share my views on the two gentlemen vying for the position of president, Bro Oswald Robinson and Bro Sheldon Govia.
I begin with current president, Bro Oswald Robinson. During the biennium, Bro Oswald made an effort to advance the cause of the union. However, he encountered several challenges. Among the most critical of these was the undermining and backbiting from key members of his team. There were times when he could have been more assertive in exercising his leadership. But, Robbie means well and once given the necessary support he will continue to serve the union well.
Among the issues that Robbie championed with zeal include:
- Staunch defense of the Collective Agreement, particularly Article 16;
- Fighting the government in court on the matter of the three teachers who were forced to resign their jobs despite the government’s agreement to grant election leave;
- Championing the cause of Otto Sam in and out of court challenging his illegal transfer and subsequent dismissal from the service;
- Forcing the government to agree to a salary increase after several years of a unilaterally imposed “wage freeze”;
- Demonstrating the fortitude to lead the union in industrial action despite the many obstacles.
- His stellar representation of the SVGTU in regional and international for such as meetings of the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT) and Education International (EI). He is highly respected in these bodies.
As the voice of teachers in the country, Bro Oswald has been a force to reckon with. Robbie does have his limitations as we all do. In this regard he is always prepared to listen and take advice if it becomes necessary. It is my considered view that Robbie is by far a much better choice than the other gentleman running for president.
Bro Sheldon Govia, the current first vice-president has chosen to run for president against the president with whom he has served. This fact in itself tells a story. I find this to be quite brazen of him given his record of poor performance and the blatant undermining of the National Executive. Govie’s main concern during his tenure was receiving the monthly stipend and travelling overseas.
Bro Sheldon disappointed many when it was determined that he actively worked against the union during the recent impasse with the government. He blatantly chose to go to work when the union called a strike. Further, it became clear that Govie and the others of his ilk were motivated by party politics as they disregarded the struggles of the union. In short, Govia is slow, inarticulate, incompetent, and untrustworthy! With him as president, the SVGTU would become the laughing stock of the country and the rest of the trade union world.
Watch and think carefully about whom you plan to vote for president. You have a choice between a zealous advocate for our union’s cause on one hand. On the other, there is one who has shown a willingness to sell out in times of crisis. It is either Robbie or Govie. You know where I stand! Put back Robbie!
Philbert “Peejohn” John
The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU) will hold elections on February 17 and 18, 2016. These elections come at a crucial time in the development of our union. I urge all members to go out and vote. Exercise your franchise. Make sensible choices regarding whom you think would best serve the interests of the organization and its membership.
An official list of the candidates for each position has been published on social media- Facebook to be exact. This list presents quite an interesting mix of old and new faces. There are some who show bright promise; there are those whose record of past performance suggests that they should be returned. And, of course, there are those whom should be totally rejected and disregarded for their dismal performance and painful betrayal during the past biennium!
I urge my colleagues to seek information. Do NOT fall for the attractive posters that are currently making the rounds as the campaign heats up.Thoroughly assess each candidate and choose carefully. Consider a blend of past performance and future promise. Soundly reject those who are merely engaged in the pursuance of personal ambition; vote against the few who have already demonstrated a willingness to put their party loyalty above the union’s agenda. We must severely punish those who have blatantly betray the cause of the union.
The future of the SVGTU is in our hands. Go out and vote. Choose wisely!
I read an interesting piece in the Searchlight of Tuesday October 20, 2015 captioned: “Whose mandate, Mr President?” and purportedly written by one Denniston Douglas as a letter to the editor.
Mr Douglas, in his missive, sought to establish that I played a very significant role in bringing about the strike of October 13, 2015. Yes, that strike called by the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union (SVGTU) and the Public Service Union (PSU). The gentleman erroneously suggests that I was somehow the mastermind and chief instigator of the whole affair.
I can respond to Bro Denniston point by point, but I choose NOT to. I will say this, however, that his is a fantastic piece of literature. I also wish to commend him for the dramatic improvement in his language skills as evidenced in the piece. Good going brother. Keep it up! You are poised to join the pantheon of the Caribbean’s literary greats!
In the meantime, I wish to get back to the awesome task of advancing the interests of my students and my colleagues as we continue to give full effect to the education revolution. I think I still have a small contribution to make in this regard.
Today is World Teachers Day!
World Teachers’ Day is held annually on 5 October to celebrate the essential role of teachers in providing quality education at all levels. It also commemorates the anniversary of the 1966 signature of the UNESCO/ILO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers.
Can anyone tell me how we have observed this day in St. Vincent and the Grenadines? Is it passing without much fanfare?