If the Ministry of Education does not have solutions to deal with problems at the Parkinson Memorial and Alma Parris Memorial secondary schools by Monday, teachers across the island will “take action”.
“The time for long talking has come to an end,” frustrated president of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) Pedro Shepherd declared today as he hinted that when school resumes next week, some teachers may not be in the classroom.
The BUT has given the ministry a 72-hour deadline to clearly outline solutions to problems including poor or ineffective communication by the principals of Parkinson Memorial and Alma Parris Secondary – Jeff Broomes and Valdez Francis respectively; lack of involvement of senior staff; unilateral decision making; and, in the case of Alma Parris, unsatisfactory action to maintain discipline.
Speaking to members of the media after a brief meeting at the Ministry of Education this morning left the BUT with no hope of either resolution or improvement, the union boss said: “In the short-term, the union will meet its membership, after which we will decide on a medium-term course of action that demonstrates the seriousness which we attach to these matters, and emphasizes our view that issues affecting teachers affect all of Barbados and therefore should not be marginalized or dismissed or delayed.”
Shepherd reported that at this morning’s meeting, which was a follow-up to talks held at the end of 2014, the BUT was informed that the ministry had “commenced action with respect to Parkinson Memorial School and that is ongoing” and that a “pending decision” was still to be made with respect to the Alma Parris school.
“While we appreciate the efforts of the ministry to update us about these issues, we must say that the union is no more updated at the beginning of 2015 than it was in 2014. Actually, we are more clueless and confused than we were before. We are in no better position to inform or satisfy our members that the professional discomfort they have endured will be alleviated,” he said.
“We have not been given any tangible information that would satisfy our members at these schools that they will be treated to improved conditions at the start of this school year . . . In actual fact, we are not hopeful at all that improved conditions will be the case since the catalysts for the issues remain in place, with no apparent change in attitude or mode of operation.
“The ministry has declined to give us a timeline for when their promised action will bear fruit. This tells us that we can expect action within another day or maybe within another decade. This is just not good enough. Our members cannot wait forever while they suffer in silence,” Shepherd added.
He said the Ministry of Education, at today’s meeting, asked the union for its “support” and “understanding” while efforts were being made to improve conditions for teachers, but the union did not feel enough progress was being made.
The BUT head said as far as the situation at the Alma Parris Secondary School was concerned, promised decisions on the St Peter institution have been “pending” for three to four years while the union has been meeting with Parkinson staff since May last year.
He noted that while the ministry said the process it was using to deal with both schools was in keeping with thePublic Service Actand the union applauded that, the same legislation also provided timelines for the appointment of teachers, timelines for dealing with grievances, a code of conduct and discipline, timelines for investigation of matters of conduct and discipline, guidelines for how public officers should operate and overarching principles for how the Public Service and heads of Departments should operate.
Efforts byBarbados TODAYto reach Minister of Education Ronald Jones, Chief Education Officer Laurie King or his deputy Karen Best have been unsuccessful.
Reflecting on 2014, Shepherd said the union spent many hours meeting with and trying to appease teachers at Alma Parris and Parkinson, while dealing with other challenges at primary schools.
“While many of these situations have been out of the public eye . . . the frustration which has beset this union and its members is very real,” he said.
Shepherd said BUT members will soon be updated on the problems at the two schools in the spotlight, as well as other matters within education that require attention and correspondence would be sent to the ministry and the Personnel Administration Division outlining their concerns very soon.
The areas of concern include: the appointment of temporary teachers, uncertainty regarding the code of employment and recruitment’s priority listings, lack of regular communication or meetings with the Ministry of Education and inadequate or delayed responses to concerns raised by unions on behalf of their members.