Gonsalves says govt. prepared to hire new teachers, re-engage retirees amid pushback to mandatory vaccination policy

SVG PM warns his government will “just get somebody else to teach people’s children” for teachers who defy mandatory vaccination policy 

KINGSTOWN, ST. VINCENT & THE GRENADINES — Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves indicated that the government is prepared to hire substitute teachers and even re-engage retirees if needed as some teachers in the country oppose a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy.

Speaking on a local radio programme, Gonsalves said, “I’m talking about the safety of the children. So if you want to go to school and stay in your staff room, I will instruct the Ministry of Education to hire other teachers to go and teach.

Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves. (Photo: CNW Network)

“Indeed, I have given them instructions, if need be, not only there but anywhere else, to hire retired teachers [and] take them on short-term contracts.”

He added, “You want to go to school and stay in your staff room? I ain’t sending police to move you. I just get somebody else to teach people’s children, including, if necessary, retired teachers, and I will pass a Cabinet decision to have them paid whatever their numeration under the new contract — short term, whilst they still continue to get their pension for what they have served already.”

The topic of mandatory vaccination for certain professions, like teachers, has remained a contentious one, with some workers in St. Vincent pushing back and even demonstrating against the policy.

Back in August, Gonsalves was struck by a rock thrown by one such protester, but maintained that he would continue with a mandatory vaccination policy.

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    Over in Antigua, Prime Minister Gaston Browne similarly cautioned public sector workers in October that his government is prepared to hire new workers to replace those who refuse to comply with mandatory vaccination.

     

    PM urges teachers to keep their jobs 

    However, Gonsalves also urged teachers not to “walk away” from their jobs by refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

    A teacher stands in front of a blackboard.

    “We are hoping and I am hoping that no one would choose to lose his or her job come on Friday,” the prime minister said.

    “I’m hoping that nobody chooses not to keep their job but they would [get] the vaccination because this is necessary and desirable for the public health and the safety of our country and in these frontline positions, strategic positions.”

    Scolding frontline workers who would “choose in a pandemic…to abandon your job because, irrationally, you don’t want to take the vaccine”, Gonsalves also said this move serves as an “example to persons in the private sector, particularly in the tourism sector, to take the vaccine”.

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