President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) Mary Redman has stated that the Social Partnership, involving Government, employers and trade unions, has been compromised by the Ministry of Education’s handling of the concerns of teachers within the past year.
Speaking at a joint meeting of the BSTU and the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) at Solidarity House Friday, Redman charged that the unions in Barbados have been dismissed and disrespected by Government.
“Barbadian unions today are too often being side-lined, excluded and disrespected in ways unheard of. Their leaders are being attacked in a manner that goes contrary to our own Trade Union Act.
“It is clear that unless attitudes and behaviours change drastically from our employers, unionists are heading for a major showdown,” Redman stated.
Calling for a return of quarterly meetings with the Ministry of Education, Redman said there were many issues, including terms and conditions of employment, as well as health and safety concerns, that needed to be addressed.
“BSTU and BUT must decide that we will write to the Ministry of Education and demand a quarterly meeting by mid-February. If this does not happen . . . we have to do what we have to do,” she cautioned.
Referring to comments made by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart accusing the unions of not following procedures, Redman said, “unions were forced to action because Government officials at the highest levels do not adhere to industrial relations practices, or in some cases, they don’t adhere to any rules at all.
“Trade unions are forced into action. It is a pity that when we hold up our Social
Partnership as a world model, we are doing this in a context now where persons are not paying any attention to us,” she added.
The trade unionist also pointed to a grievance which she said was raised at the St Michael School in September 2016, saying they were yet to hear from the Ministry of Education.
“It is established that the meeting should have taken place five days within the ministry’s receipt of our letter, having referred the matter to them on the 21st of September.
“Four months have passed since we initiated a grievance procedure to address a serious matter,” Redman said, adding that they have given the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education ten days to respond to the letter.
“We have to move past talking, passing resolutions and send a serious message that we are about action,” warned the BSTU president.
“As a registered trade union when you write and ask for a meeting . . . with any agent of the employer, you have to be granted that meeting, you cannot be denied that meeting,” Redman said.