A veteran retired trade union leader is contending that the umbrella Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) does not have a leg on which to stand in its latest feud with the Ministry of Education.
The BUT wants the ministry to rescind a letter advising teachers who attended recent union meetings that their pay would be docked.
However, the trade unionist, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue, told Barbados TODAY this afternoon, that the BUT’s leadership was being misled into believing the ministry had acted illegally.
He explained that while the teachers bargaining agent had been relying on the General Orders for guidance in this matter, they were cheating themselves by not reading the Public Service Act.
“I understand they say it is the General Orders, but really and truly it isn’t the General Orders. They got to look at the Public Service Act Schedule 2, and they got a provision 15 (1) that states if you are away from work and it isn’t for illness or something of that kind, or with the permission of the Permanent Secretary, then the Permanent Secretary can dock it [pay],” he said.
The respected former trade unionist recalled the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) workers’ pay being docked earlier this year after their participation in a demonstration held by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW).
He said the union had supplemented the SSA workers’ pay, “because that is why you have a strike fund”.
“But as far as I concerned whoever lawyer advising [BUT President] Pedro Shepherd, they better look at the Public Service Act and not just the General Orders. We tend to forget something. The same way we have a right to strike, a right to go slow, the employers got the same right too. So I could shut you out. I could do all uh dem things. You take action, I can counter by doing all
of those kind uh things. I can dock yuh pay. It is written there in the Public Service Act under Schedule 2,” the retired trade union leader emphasized.
He also sent a reminder to the BUT regarding the holding of meetings for
“Union meetings all over the world are held in the workers’ time. They have no God-given right to have union meetings during working hours. It is at the discretion of the employer. It is different if the executive wanted to meet. The Government grants them permission that they can meet and hold their meetings. But when you come to a body, unless the employer gives the okay, you in trouble,” he pointed out.
“Every time you look ‘round, you holding a 12 o’clock meeting or two o’clock meeting. You gine cause the employer to think then, that it is a form of industrial action that you are taking. You disrupting the flow of the business,” he added.
News of the decision to dock the teachers’ pay came a day after Shepherd had told Barbados TODAY last week, “things are looking up” after a month-long impasse.
A letter from the Ronald Jones-led ministry, dated May 6 and signed by the Permanent Secretary June Chandler, stated 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”.
Yesterday Shepherd deemed the move to be illegal, while calling on the ministry to rescind the decision. Other union representatives are also hopping mad over the development, pointing out that it had never been the practice for trade unions to seek permission to hold meetings, which is the right of members.
One angry official 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.
It was just about two weeks ago 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.