The Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) is increasing the pressure on Minister of Education Ronald Jones to meet with its members, threatening another call out this week if the minister does not comply.
The BUT is unhappy with a letter it received from Jones today in response to its demand for a meeting with him tomorrow, and has accused Jones of stalling.
Following an emergency meeting of teachers held at the Garfield Sobers Gymnasium last Friday, BUT President Pedro Shepherd announced that if the minister did not meet with the teachers by tomorrow’s deadline, they would be off the job on Friday.
This evening, Shepherd told Barbados TODAY that based on the contents of the minister’s letter, the teachers were unlikely to report to work, although he appeared less forceful about further industrial action beyond Friday.
Shepherd said that Jones indicated in the letter that he had always made himself available to discuss matters confronting teachers, that tomorrow’s deadline was inappropriate and no alternative date could be set at the time.
“Based on this letter I would say there is nothing to go by really, and I think that the position of the Barbados Union of Teachers remains the same this evening as it was yesterday and as it was when I left the Gymnasium [last Friday].
“If we cannot have a meeting tomorrow, or something positive, then we may very well have to ask teachers to come to a meeting on Friday so that we can share the contents of the response from the minister and be guided by them as to what time frame they are prepared for the Minister of Education to meet with them,” the BUT head said.
Shepherd insisted that the meeting could not be delayed and that the union would not compromise on this demand.
“The meeting has to be, and it has to be very soon. We are not moving away from that position. We remain adamant that that meeting needs to be sooner, rather than later, otherwise action would come into play.”
In his letter, Jones indicated that he was prepared to meet with the union “to establish the parameters of a promised meeting with teachers”, an offer Shepherd described as “stalling tactics”.
“You want a meeting, we will promise a meeting,” he seemed to suggest Jones was saying. “And you know what our older folks say about a promise. I wouldn’t say anything more about that. It is full of a lot of information and jargon, but it does not speak to what we want,” the union leader maintained.
He warned that any meeting called for Friday would be held at a time when all teachers would be able to attend, and that most likely would be in the morning.
“I know teachers on Friday wouldn’t want a meeting after school. And I am not sure our Adventist teachers would want a meeting being called at three o’clock either.
“It may very well have to be a morning meeting and once we conclude our business then they can go to school and take charge of their students,” he said.
Class Four students across the island are expected to sit the Secondary Schools Entrance Examination next Tuesday.
However, while not confirming that the teachers would go on strike on that day, Shepherd said if they did take industrial action it would not have a significant impact on the examination, which is administered at secondary schools while primary schools function as normal.
“There could still be some measure of action by some members of BUT on Tuesday regardless of whether there is Common Entrance or not. I don’t see it compromising Common Entrance at all,” he said.
Shepherd stressed that teachers had asked for the urgent meeting with the minister to discuss a number of issues affecting how they perform, the quality of service they render and their health and safety, along with a number of “offensive comments” from Jones over the last four to five years regarding the educators.