“You cannot be a lawmaker and a lawbreaker.”
With this stern warning Minister of Education Ronald Jones last night said his Ministry would not be entertaining any discussion on the salary deductions taken from teachers’ salaries this month.
Speaking in strong defence of the action by his ministry, Jones also rubbished suggestions from the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) that its members were merely attending meetings; therefore there were no legal grounds for Government’s punitive action.
“You are going to tell me you are going to withdraw your labour and use a clever trick to say you are having a meeting?” asked Jones, during a political meeting at the St Luke’s Church Hall last evening.
By way of a letter dated May 6, which was signed by the Permanent Secretary June Chandler, teachers were informed that “in accordance with Section 3.3.2 of the General Orders, you are hereby advised that 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.”
BUT President Pedro Shepherd has since revealed that nearly 80 per cent of teachers who attended the two meetings have suffered a salary deduction. At the same time, he has cautioned that his union will not be taking the matter lying down.
However, Jones told the St George South Branch meeting that the General Orders of the Public Service Act, which were used by the BUT to defend its position, clearly spells out that the Permanent Secretary can reduce salaries once there is “reasonable and sensible explanation”.
And even though he acknowledged that he could not tell the BUT when it should hold its meetings, he argued that the union needed to be cognizant of the effect of its actions.
“From the time you use the time of your contract of service, you are denying the employer access to your labour. It is simple,” Jones said, pointing out that he had in his possession a letter from the BUT which clearly stated that “if you don’t have A by this time, we will be withdrawing our labour”.
The minister of education also reprimanded the BUT for first taking it demands for talks with the Ministry to the media and then publicly threatening to stay away from classrooms if there was no response by Wednesday, April 27.
He accused the union of adopting an unnecessary hardline even after he had promised Shepherd back in February that the ministry’s doors were open to the union.
“You should have picked up the phone and called me. You shouldn’t have to wait for an official meeting.
“So that ain’t call for no letter, that ain’t call for marching up and down in the park or at the gymnasium or for any noise. That calls for using your resources at your disposal,” he argued.
Accusing the union of disrespect and insisting that his office deserved better, the minister said: “You don’t have to like me, but you have to respect the office.”
He also accused the BUT of “acting in bad faith” after the union claimed that its issues were left unresolved despite previous meetings.
“We had our meetings, one or two things were not closed but most things we thought we had a resolution and then to hear we have no resolution on nothing. I am saying that was in bad faith,” argued Jones.
He also hit back at the calls by Shepherd for him to step down since he appeared tired of the ministry, declaring, “if I were I would”.
However, he said “I can tell you, I feel so rejuvenated that you don’t know. I will be tirelessly about this place as we move up to the next election.”