Relations between the Ministry of Education and the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) appear to be on the mend.
The union has won a concession from the Ministry which has agreed to the reinstatement of quarterly meetings after ignoring such requests from the union for the last three years.
BUT President Pedro Shepherd also told Barbados TODAY that the correspondence from the union no longer goes unanswered and the Ministry even sends letters of acknowledgement of correspondence.
In an interview today, Shepherd said no date had been set so far by the Ministry for the first meeting. He noted a number of concerns had arisen over the last three years that the union wanted to discuss.
“Previously, we have been fortunate to have quarterly meetings with the Ministry of Education. The BUT would have met with the ministry almost every three months but since about 2012 or so, we have not had one,” Shepherd told Barbados TODAY.
“A number of issues would have come up during the period and we were not given the opportunity to meet with the ministry and discuss them. The issues have accumulated over the years and so we are putting them on the table.”
One vexing issue relates to an apparent policy change on study leave for teachers.
“We know that the regulations before had stated that there is a provision of ten days study leave per semester,” Shepherd explained. “When teachers apply for study leave now, they are being confronted with a situation where the Ministry of Education is sometimes asking principals to determine how many days, if any at all, the teachers should get. The granting of study leave now depends on whether or not the school can manage with teachers going off on study leave.”
Shepherd said when the quarterly meetings are reconvened, the BUT will try to ascertain from the Ministry of Education if there had been a change in policy on study leave. “If there is indeed a change in policy, then we expect the Ministry of Education to formally write us so that we would know and teachers would know what is the policy or policy changes,” he said.
“We are hoping that this meeting comes off within another two to three weeks. We also want to know what is the position with the appointments of those [temporary] teachers who were not among the last batch of 416 teachers appointed to the teaching service.”
Another issue on which the BUT is seeking clarification relates to the policy on term leave. Shepherd explained that under current arrangements, teachers are granted term leave in the first instance after 15 continuous years of service and then every five years afterwards.
He said it seemed that there had been a change in policy as a teacher only gets term leave now if he or she is about to retire, going on their last leave, or following completion of the 15 years of continuous service.