by STAFF WRITER
December 27, 2021
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Dec 27, CMC – The Public Service Union (PSU) is calling on the St. Vincent and the Grenadines government to provide to all public sector workers, the EC$500 (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) bonus, being given to nurses.
PSU president, Elroy Boucher, is also questioning whether the payment to nurses only is tantamount to Judas’ 30 pieces of silver for betraying Christ.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, speaking on a radio programme, said that he had spoken to Finance Minister, Camillo Gonsalves, authorising the payment of the EC$500 honorarium each to nurses.
“If it’s a number at 700, it’sEC$350,000 it costs. If it’s a number closer to 800, 800, obviously, of them would be EC$400,000….” Gonsalves said.
But Boucher, whose union represents nurses, told reporters that while the union “actually welcome a bonus or something” to the nurses who have been in the frontline of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic fight.
“We know they have been going through since 2019, when all of the other governments have found it within their hearts to recognise the hard work by all workers who are on the frontline,” Boucher said, noting however that he was not sure that the honorarium “has to do with the reward for them toiling.
“I’m of the view that that is a reward for their decision not to participate in the strike action that was called,” he said, adding that nurses had decided, over several meetings, to withdraw their services in September.
“And it is a prime minister who went, when the nurses took the decision, and begged them not to — pleading all kinds of love and all that sorts of stuff — and when many of the nurses heeded his call, which is quite interesting, because it is as if he had a gun pointed at them. And they reacted by saying, ‘Stop, we’re gonna do this.’
“And then when you reach out to them, for whatever reason, many of them change their minds. And they decided they were not going to strike. In other words, he broke what would have been a very effective strike by the healthcare workers by his appeal.”
Boucher said he remembered that Gonsalves spoke on a radio programme after the strike saying that he would recognise the nurses for their dedication.
“I’m of the view that this $500 is a reward for that,” Boucher said.
“And to me, that is money that is tantamount to Judas betraying Christ. But that’s why we are here today,” he said, noting that public sector unions have brought a legal challenge against the government’s vaccine mandate.
“Because I firmly believe if nurses- there are two groups of workers that I realise have a lot of power: nurses and teacher – when they shut down, everything shuts down. And if the nurses had stood their ground, we might not have been here engaging our lawyers….and fighting to get back the work of all of those workers. We would not have been here. I am very confident of that.”
President of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union (SVGTU), Oswald Robinson, said that he agreed with Boucher, adding “this government is on record of the divide and rule strategy. “They have done it in 2015. They actually rewarded persons who did not participate in the one-day strike and they feel that is working for them. And that is why we said to our workers, you have to be focused, you have to stay with the organisations who have the voice to speak for you. Whatever comes your way you take it but don’t see it as a bribe.”
Robinson said that people are being rewarded for not supporting their union or the Police Welfare Association.
“That is clear. It is staring us in the face there. In fact, the government had not given retroactive payment for many years for persons who finished university and Teachers’ College. And when we’re planning that recent protest action, all of a sudden, a whole set of our teachers got retroactive payment. It is the quickest in the history of this country that teachers who finished teachers’ college got their appointments.
“So they’re using this divide and rule to more or less diffuse our action, to weaken what we’re doing. So we said to our workers, take whatever is yours, it’s your money, should be yours, but do not do it at the expense of betrayal,” Robinson added.