Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo has weighed in on the ongoing industrial dispute involving the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) and the Ministry of Education, saying she was keeping a close eye on the developments.
And while she did not expect the matter to reach the Labour department, Byer-Suckoo told Barbados TODAY she would encourage those involved to have more dialogue in order to bring about an amicable solution to the impasse.
The Ministry of Education and the BUT have been at loggerheads following a recent incident involving a third form student and a teacher at the Ellerslie Secondary School.
The incident has sparked much public debate with the union pressing for the expulsion of the student, while child rights advocate Shelly Ross has called for the removal of the teacher.
However, Minister of Education Ronald Jones is maintaining that a full investigation is warranted before any decision is taken. He has announced that a special committee is to be established to probe violence in schools.
The union is also at odds with the education ministry in relation to the marking of School Based Assessment (SBA).
“Civil service matters may not necessarily come through the Ministry of Labour. We tend to deal with the statutory agencies and private companies. So that may not come to me. But I am keeping an eye on it, if only because when matters start to escalate and take on a life of their own then it may draw other industrial reaction and solidarity and you may start to see that issue burgeoning. So I am keeping an eye on it if only from that point of view,” explained Byer-Suckoo.
She told Barbados TODAY she did not wish to see the impasse involving the Ministry of Education and the BUT to get any worse, cautioning that it was necessary to have dialogue.
“It is important to stay at the table and talk. I know I say that all the time, but while industrial action may communicate to the country and the other side that you are serious, yes, it doesn’t solve the problem . . . It is schools; it is our students so of course we are all concerned. It affects all of us, but talk. Don’t give up talking. Once you give up talking it’s all over. You have got to continue to engage,” advised Byer-Suckoo.
Commenting generally on the industrial climate in Barbados, Byer-Suckoo said there were three main reasons for the way it was presently, including an Opposition that was “looking for things to latch on to” given that fact that election was around the corner.
“There is the party politics, which is a part of it and I don’t think there is any denying that has had a part to play. There is the economy. That has had a part to play with jobs and the nature of work and employers, both private and Government, having to make changes or not give raises or layoffs having to happen in this economy; that has of course caused the industrial relations climate to be where it is,” she said.
“The third thing too, is that within the unions themselves there are changes. So you have new persons now doing things differently and testing new ways of doing things, . . . So all of these things are coming together at this time,” she added. (MM)