The Teachers’ Union and the Public Service Union (PSU), the two main unions representing public sector workers here, announced late Wednesday that they will strike on October 13.
“The St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union (SVGTU) and the Public Service Union (PSU) took a decision on Wednesday 7th October, 2015 to withdraw the services of their members on Tuesday 13th October, 2015 due to the further delay of the one-month tax free salary in lieu of no salary increase for the past four years,” the Teachers’ Union said in a statement signed by its president, Oswald Robinson, and president of the PSU, Elroy Boucher.
“Both unions appeal to all parents/guardians to keep their children/wards at home on this day.
The SVGTU and PSU also extended a call to all other teachers and public sector workers to withdraw their services as well,” the statement said.
The unions have said that they want the one-month salary payment to be made before general elections, expected by year-end, ahead of the March 2016 constitutional deadline.
However, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, has said the national coffers cannot afford to make the payment, which he said will amount to EC$25 million.
Gonsalves, however, has said that if his government is returned to office, it will from January 2016 increase by EC$25 monthly (11.36 per cent and 12.5 per cent) the money that the state gives to each of the 5,500 Vincentians on the Public Assistance roll.
He said that the nation can afford to increase Public Assistance payment to EC$225 and EC$245 per person for the respective groups.
“It is going to increase expenditure. If you have five thousand and something people who get public assistance, you just multiply it by $25 and you see the extent of the increase. And I feel we can manage it,” Gonsalves told journalists.
Meanwhile, the National Omnibus Association (NOBA), which is threatening to withdraw its services on October 12, said Wednesday that it is waiting on documentation from the government regarding commitments to meet its demands in order to avert a strike.
“We are still waiting on a decision, the decisions have to be documented, it has to be signed, sealed and delivered,” president of NOBA, Antony “Code Red” Bacchus told I-Witness News around 7 p.m. Wednesday, the day by which they said the government must respond.
NOBA is demanding road repairs and wants the government to consider an express route out of Kingstown to the windward side of St. Vincent for minibuses during rush hour on certain days. It also wants the government to consider a proposal it has submitted to transport officials.
“We are not taking any word of mouth. Once we get the full satisfaction, our demands are met, we will make an announcement and withdraw the strike. If we don’t get exactly what we want, like I said, the strike is still on Monday the 12th,” Bacchus said.