Kingstown, St. Vincent (ONE NEWS SVG) – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said today (November 5) that he will hold a conversation with the relevant authorities concerning the reinstatement of teachers who have not reached retirement age, unsuccessfully contested the 2020 General Election, and may want to be reinstated.
Constitutionally, public officers cannot contest general elections. They must resign from their posts as public officers to be able to legally contest general elections.
The issue about the reinstatement of teachers who resigned their post to contest as candidates in general elections has been a contentious one, with some persons accusing the government of not staying true to a Collective Bargaining Agreement with the SVG Teachers Union, which addresses, among other things, the reinstatement of teachers.
But, Dr. Gonsalves has said that those provisions of the collective bargaining agreement were “aspirational” as the Constitution is the highest law of the land and it is clear on the matter.
In 2009, the ULP administration, led by Dr. Gonsalves held a referendum for a new constitution, for which the Bill had the unanimous, bipartisan support of Parliament. But the opposition withdrew from the effort last-minute after the bill was passed in the house, leading to a defeat of the effort in the referendum that followed.
Included in the 2009 Constitutional Bill for a referendum for a new constitution was the establishment of a Teaching Service Commission through which matters of teacher reinstatement and other protections would be constitutionally addressed.
The Prime Minister said at the swearing-in ceremony that the issue of the reinstatement of teachers is not one for the Executive Arm of the government (Cabinet).
But, he said “I will hold a conversation with Chairman of the Public Service Commission to indicate to him that despite the fact that they have all [resigned] that if his office and that of the Chief Personnel Officer can work alongside with the relevant departments… to see whether all of those teachers who are not yet of retirement age, if they wish to return into the public service, into the teaching service” that they can do so.
He said that those individuals would have to indicate, formally, to the Public Service Commission, their interest in being reinstated and that he – Prime Minister Gonsalves will be copied on the request when it is sent to Cabinet. He said that at that time, he would hold a conversation with the Chairman of the Public Service Commission.
He said that if the Public Service Commission thinks that it is proper for the request to be effected, then it will be effected.
But, he added that he cannot direct the Chairman of the Public Service Commission on the matter because the office of the Public Service Commission is independent and protected by the Constitution.
In the 2020 General Election, Shevern John, who unsuccessfully contested the North Windward constituency served as a teacher.
In past elections, there have been others.
Dr. Gonsalves said the move will be part of efforts to foster national reconciliation.