The Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) today put Minister of Education Ronald Jones on notice for industrial action if he does not meet with members by next Wednesday.
BUT President Pedro Shepherd sounded the warning following a more than three hour long meeting with scores of teachers who were summoned to a 1p.m. meeting at the Garfield Sobers Gymnasium.
Shepherd told the media that the minister could invite social workers, “they can bring the police, they can bring whoever they want to this meeting,” but talks with the union were a must.
“We are going to ask the minister to convene a meeting of all the teachers and any other stakeholders in education . . . where teachers can hear from the Minister of Education what his concerns are, teachers can say to the minister what their concerns are, we can look for solutions to take education forward and try to deal with all the issues in education,” Shepherd said.
“If that meeting does not come off by next Wednesday, Thursday is a holiday, and we are prepared not to venture out to work on Friday,” Shepherd warned, adding “we are prepared to stay home until the minister meets” with the teachers.
Today’s meeting came on the heels of a violent attack on a female teacher at the Ellerslie Secondary School by a third form student, which drew the ire of the union. Shepherd made it clear that the BUT was sticking with its demands for the teenager to be expelled.
“No matter what a teacher says to you, it does not give you the right to spit on a teacher . . . This child [needs to] be expelled from Ellerslie and be sent to some other school in Barbados or some other institution that can deal with this child and its behavioural problems. That is all we are saying. We are not saying to expel a third form child, a 13-year-old period, but the child obviously has problems,” he lamented.
Pointing to other issues such as unresolved term leave, short term study leave and health and safety at school plants, Shepherd made it clear that the membership has had enough of the treatment being meted out by the ministry.
“We are not going to continue to push back these actions. We kept pushing back actions on Alma Parris, we kept pushing back on Parkinson, . . . and we have lost membership at Alma Parris because members felt that the Barbados Union of Teachers’ did nothing,” the BUT president told reporters.
“ . . . But the Ministry of Education just has this notion that you can stall trade unions, that you can stall the BUT, you can stall teachers from taking action by saying a report is due, we are investigating the matter, we will get back to you at some point.”
Shepherd also blasted Jones for speaking with teachers via Facebook and GIS (Government Information Service).
“Teachers have so many questions for the Minister. Every single time the Minister speaks in Barbados in any forum, the Minister castigates and vilifies teachers and the time has come for the Minister of Education to meet teachers face to face and that meeting has to be next week. It cannot go pass next week,” he declared.
The BUT head also dismissed comments by the Ministry of Education that today’s 1 p.m. meeting was a clear sign of industrial action.
“It cannot be industrial action. We have no dispute with the Ministry on anything significant enough to cause a dispute at this time, although we still have Alma Parris [and] Parkinson, all of those issues outstanding that the Ministry refuses to give any action but we are not dealing with those. We are dealing with the violence against teachers in our schools and were are dealing with the constant bashing of teachers by the Minister of Education.”