Independent Senator Sir Roy Trotman Wednesday called for an end to “education firefighting” and for more dialogue between schools’ authorities and trade unions representing this island’s teachers.
Speaking in the Upper Chamber, Sir Roy further advised the two sides to do all in their power to settle their public quarrels by the end of the school year, which wraps up tomorrow.
He even suggested that they could use a third party to broker solutions.
“The time has come for us to do whatever is possible, what is practicable and sensible to remove the log jam which clearly there is . . . . Look for some means of having a third party and sit with the leaders and . . . by the end of the school year to put that battleground atmosphere behind us, and make sure the new school year will be one in which the weather forecast will be for fine weather and occasional showers of course, but where the indications are that the wind will be blowing gently from the east north east,” the veteran trade unionist said as he made his contribution to today’s debate on the Public Service (Teachers) Order 2016.
Saying there could be no joy for the trade union movement when the Minister of Education Ronald Jones, a former trade unionist, was embroiled in differences with this colleagues, the former union boss suggested that a lack of discussion was at the heart of the recent disagreements, as he proceeded to question whether education authorities had held consultations with the unions on the very resolution which was before the Senate.
“I would like to be told that efforts were made to discuss the matter, since it offers something better than before to the group that is being impacted. What would be grounds that would be given for there not having been prior consultations?” Sir Roy asked.
He said while there was no legal requirement for prior discussions on the statutory instrument, in the spirit of Protocol 7, which is currently being drawn up by the Social Partnership, “the moral responsibility to dialogue must never be forgotten” and the parties that are impacted “should in fact be consulted and they should be some discussions”.
Sir Roy was insistent that dialogue was the only way to approach the issues as he made reference to new proposals to improve education in schools, including those a teaching service commission.
The former Barbados Workers Union general secretary also highlighted proposals for the establishment of a teaching council, saying there was already concern among education stakeholders about the proposed body.
“They point to Jamaica and Bermuda as being areas where the teaching council has been put down, put to the test and have been found to be sadly wanting.
“If that is so, there is a need for consultation.”
Similarly, Sir Roy noted there was apprehension about the teaching service commission, which he said, would require amendments to the Constitution and the appointment of a special teachers’ personnel officer.
“But the thing is if there is no consultation, if there is no discussion, then there can’t be any agreement and when there is no agreement we have the same problem we have,” he said, warning that “ an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”.