The Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) is not comforted by an announcement by Minister of Education Ronald Jones today confirming that letters of appointment to over 400 temporary teachers would be late.
The minister announced late last month that the 416 teachers would be appointed by the end of September. But the deadline passed without word from the Ministry of Education, angering the BUT, which yesterday threatened to explore “all possible options” to protest against the delay unless there was word by the end of the day today.
“By the end of tomorrow, I think that the Ministry of Education should respond to the BUT and its call for information relating to the appointment of temporary teachers to permanent positions. Failing that, the BUT will be exploring all options with respect to the matter and to send a strong message to the Ministry of Education, to the Personnel Administration Division and to the Public Service Ministry because we have had enough of this,” an annoyed Shepherd told Barbados TODAY in yesterday’s interview.
Jones addressed the matter this morning as he spoke to the media following a church service to mark the launch of Education Month. He disclosed that one of the reasons for the delay was the discovery by the Ministry of Education that some teachers in the public system were being underpaid.
However, he gave the assurance that the temporary teachers should begin receiving their letters of appointment within a week.
This failed to console the BUT president Pedro Shepherd who told Barbados TODAY this evening that if the Ministry had known that it would not have met the September 30 deadline, officials should have informed the union, which in turn would have conveyed the message to its members.
“I am not happy at all. It does not comfort me hearing the Minister this evening, and I am sure that the teachers are not comforted either,” Shepherd said in a brief interview.
The union boss said this additional wait would be frustrating for the educators who have been bombarding the union’s executives with calls inquiring about the status of their appointments.
“Teachers have been calling my executive numbers all week long. In fact, from the beginning of the term my executive members have been bombarded with calls from teachers about when appointments are going to be made, who is on the list, what [are] the criteria being used? All of these things we still are not aware of,” Shepherd complained.
Meanwhile, Jones has insisted that there was no controversy surrounding the appointments, as a commitment had been made and was being honoured.
“We ran into a little challenge in that each letter is an individual letter because each person came into the service at a different date. We did encounter a few persons, as we were going through the process, who might have been underpaid,” the Minister explained.
“So that means that you have to slow your pace down, to check everyone individually to ensure that no person was being disadvantaged. You wouldn’t want a situation of some of them being underpaid as a result of errors made some years ago and that continued over time,” he added.
The minister stressed that the Ministry of Education completed its part of the process sometime last month, and all relevant information had already been forwarded to the office of the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) for processing.
“They [the CPO] are the ones who prepare all of the letters and get them to the persons who are appointed. So all I am asking is for the teachers to wait just a few more weeks because the work is being done. The work is being processed and this is not to deny or disadvantage anybody.”
On this note, Jones called on the BUT to understand that the authorities were being meticulous with the process because the Ministry wanted it done correctly so there would be no need for retractions.
He explained that initially, the Ministry was striving to have all the letters dispatched at the same time, however the decision was reviewed and “we have now decided that they might have to go out in batches.”
“Rather than wait for all 416 to be completed, we might have to send them out in batches. We believe that the first batch should be available next week to go out to those persons who are being appointed,” he said.