“I am of the view that this $500 is a reward for that. And to me, that is money that is tantamount to Judas betraying Christ; and that why we’re here today.”
President of the Public Service Union (PSU) Elroy Boucher made the comment during a joint press conference involving St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU), the Police Welfare Association (PWA) and the PSU on Monday.
Boucher was at the time responding to a question about a $500 honorarium Prime Minister Gonsalves promised to nurses for the month of December but which might not be paid until January.
“It’s not just nurses, it’s all the people who had to be out there in the midst of this pandemic. So, yeah, but not necessarily for nurses alone, for everybody.
“But I am not sure that the reward being offered by the Prime Minister for nurses has to do with them toiling. I am of the view that that is a reward for their decision not to participate in the strike action that was called,” Boucher told reporters.”
Boucher said it was the nurses who took the decisions – over several meetings – to withdraw their services and the Prime Minister went and begged them not to. He said the Prime Minister plead all kind of love and many of the nurses heeded his call “because it’s like he had a gun pointed at them and they reacted by saying ‘stop, we’re gonna do this.’”
“And for whatever reason, many of them changed their minds and they decided they were going to strike. In other words, he broke what would have been a very effective strike by the healthcare workers by his appeal,” he said.
Boucher recalled that on a radio programme the Prime Minister spoke of rewarding nurses and some said they would propose the nature of that reward.
Boucher said the honorarium is a welcomed gesture as his union had in fact come up with a proposal for frontline workers who toiled during the earlier period of the pandemic but he could not recall whether the proposal “was ever sent.”
“When all of the other governments have found it within their hearts to recognize the hard work when all workers who were on the frontline; and we’re talking about mainly the airport workers at that particular time before you had this prescribed list of frontline workers and you had the workers at the hospitals – nurses, doctors, whatever – and we knew that they would have toiled all during the beginning of the pandemic without vaccines, with very little PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment) and we thought there should have been some sort of reward for that particular service,” Boucher said.
Boucher also stated: “If the nurses had stood their ground, we might not have been here engaging our lawyers – very expensive work.”
President of the SVGTU Oswald Robinson endorsed what Boucher said, adding that the SVGTU has already warned members to be aware of the government’s attempt to use the divide and rule strategy. “And that is why we said to our workers ‘you have to be focused, you have to stay with the organization who have the voice for you. Whatever comes your way, you take it but don’t see it as a bribe, okay, because people are being rewarded for not participating or listening to the voice of the unions – and in the case of the Police Welfare Association.’
That is clear. It is staring us right in the face here. In fact, the government has not given retroactive payments for many years for persons who finished university and teachers’ college. And when we were planning protest action, all of a sudden, a whole set of our teachers got retroactive payments,” Robinson said.
The SVGTU president added: “So, yes, teachers deserve benefits too. But, you see, the state owed – even principals. They robbed them $90 since 2010 and the government has not paid up.”