The Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) says while it has no intention of disrupting this month’s 50th anniversary celebrations, it expects Government to settle an outstanding pay cut with teachers by the end of this month.
“We want our property back. I am saying that I would like my property back by the November payday. Otherwise, I personally will have to make representation for my docked pay,” warned BUT President Pedro Shepherd.
“As a trade union leader I have the right to call a meeting . . . I believe it was an injustice done to me and my executive members who had their pay docked,” he said, adding, “ We are not prepared to have it restored in 2017 or 2018. We want it restored before the end of this term . . . because we want to buy gifts for our children and families for December.”
However, as was the case on the last occasion when teachers left school to hold talks with their union, the Ministry of Education today issued a circular to all principals of public, nursery, primary and secondary schools warning that move was not sanctioned by the education authorities.
“It is the view of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and Innovation that convening a meeting during school hours is tantamount to industrial action and has the potential to disrupt classes,” said Permanent Secretary June Chandler in the circular dated November 16, 2016.
It came as a timely reminder to teachers, whose pay was docked during May, June and July of this year, after they attended two separate meetings called by the BUT on April 29 and May 4.
In response, Shepherd described the circular, which affected attendance at the 1:30 p.m. meeting called by BUT today at its Welches, St Michael headquarters, as “a serious threat to the trade union movement and to industrial relations”, but made it clear the BUT was not prepared to back down.
“So if the ministry wants us then to meet at a time that would cause least class disruption I believe the Ministry of Education would have to close schools so we could meet on a particular day . . . but once we continue on this current trajectory where the ministry is not meeting or not discussing issues, the Barbados Union of Teachers would continue to find options and avenues to get information out to its members. And whatever we deem as appropriate and most impactful, those are the avenues we are going to take because we are not fearful of the ministry. We know the tactics of the ministry,” he warned.
Speaking to journalists this evening following a two hour and 45 minute-long meeting with members, the BUT president also accused Government of using “delaying tactics” when it came to the appointment of some 500 teachers.
A tough-talking Shepherd also highlighted the non-payment of teachers for marking School Based Assessments, while revealing that a meeting has been scheduled for Saturday in a bid to resolve it.
However, he said there were still outstanding concerns, including the use of cell phones in schools.
When pressed, Shepherd would not say what actions the union was prepared to take, but was adamant that a quick resolution must be found to all the issues on the table, otherwise there were “some things in the pipeline that would have a serious effect on the whole teaching and learning environment in Barbados”.
He stressed that the BUT was prepared to do whatever was necessary to represent its members, adding that whatever decisions were taken they would be done in conjunction with the BUT’s sister union the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU).
“Both executives [of the BUT and BSTU] will meet and we are going to plan our way forward. It has to be a position now where both teachers’ unions in Barbados work on matters relating to education and teaching,” he said, adding that the BUT and BSTU executives would be meeting within the next 24 hours to devise a plan.
“The ministry has to recognize that the Barbados Union of Teachers and the BSTU are serious about what they are doing. We have membership and we have a constituency to represent and we have to do what we have to do to represent our constituents in the best way that we can,” he stressed.