Pedro Shepherd and the other executive members of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) are not the only ones who are not taking Government’s recent docking of teachers’ salaries lightly.
Terming it “a cardinal error of judgement”, the umbrella Congress of Trade Union and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) today officially stepped into the impasse, demanding that the Ronald Jones-led Ministry of Education immediately restores the pay of the affected teachers.
The deductions have been made over the past two months from the pay packs of teachers, who the ministry said, attended without permission, two BUT meetings held on April 29 and May 4, 2016.
However, speaking out publicly for the first time on the matter, CTUSAB said it was taking careful note of the development, since it could have implications for the entire public service.
“CTUSAB is mindful of the threat which the docking of pay poses to the labour movement. It considers that this action is seemingly intended to intimidate, deprive workers of their property and right to organize,” the umbrella grouping said in the statement released by its General Secretary Dennis De Peiza.
In it, the Congress also described the move to penalize teachers as both “ill-timed” and “inappropriate”, while arguing that the teachers were well within their right to attend a meeting of their trade union representative.
In any case, CTUSAB argued that even if teachers had been engaged in strike action, as the Ministry charges, at no time did the ministry evoke the established procedures, as set out in Section 20 (1) (a) and (b) of the Second Schedule of the Public Service Act, 2007-41.
Under that section, “all officers who are on leave at the commencement of a strike must be informed by the Permanent Secretary or Head of Department of an existence of a strike and of the fact that they must report for duty immediately, ” CTUSAB said, pointing out that the only exceptions were those officers who were on study leave or a leave of absence outside Barbados.
The Congress therefore said the ministry’s action was also “ill-advised”, as it “seemingly runs contrary to the accepted practice, where members of unions and staff associations are not penalized for attending meetings called by their representative bodies”.
The umbrella trade union body also described the actions as “injurious” to the commitment of the Government as reflected under Section 10.6 of Protocol V1, “to be a model employer and to set the highest possible standards of trust, accountability and democracy in the workplace”.