Fresh trouble is brewing between the Ministry of Education and unionized teachers.
A day after Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) President Pedro Shepherd told Barbados TODAY that “things are looking up” after a month-long impasse, a salary deductions move by the ministry threatens to tear the two sides apart.
A letter from the Ronald Jones-led ministry, dated May 6 and signed by the Permanent Secretary June Chandler, states that “in accordance with Section 3.3.2 of the General Orders, you are hereby advised that the salaries of those officers, who attended without permission, the Barbados Union of Teachers meetings held on April 29 and May 4, 2016, respectively, should be proportionately abated for the month of May, 2016.”
When contacted this morning, Shepherd said he had been made aware of the development, but was not ready to comment publicly on the matter, which also affects members of the BUT’s sister union, the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU).
Today, BSTU President Mary Redman, who is on sick leave, also deferred comment on the matter.
However, Barbados TODAY understands that some union representatives are hopping mad over the development, pointing out that it has never been the practice for trade unions to seek permission to hold meetings, which is the right of members.
One angry official outrightly condemned the ministry’s action, saying it was not only “ridiculous” but a “backward step”.
The official also suggested that unless the letters were rescinded, there could be a full blown national strike over the issue, which has ramifications for all trade unions. The senior official said the move also goes against the philosophy of the Social Partnership between Government, trade unions and employers.
Ironically, it was just last week that Jones vowed from the floor of Parliament to do “everything decent” to bring an end to the bitter public feud with the country’s teachers.
Just yesterday, Shepherd also spoke in a very conciliatory tone as he reported to Barbados TODAY on efforts to repair the damage caused by the impasse, which had degenerated into calls for Jones’ removal.
The BUT head confirmed that meetings had been taking place between representatives of his union and the Permanent Secretary, which he said “have been offering some promise”.
However, he said the union was still awaiting an “urgent” meeting with Jones as they seek resolution of 27 issues affecting the educators.
These include violence in schools; safety and health issues; school closure and policy relating to water outages and stench; summer work programme; terms leave; study leave; information technology coordinators; punctuality and absenteeism; early childhood coordinators; teacher service commission; appointment of temporary teachers; teacher evaluation; corporal punishment; mobile technology policy and replacement of technology in schools; as well as issues involving a number of secondary schools, including Parkinson and Alma Paris.