Left, right, left, right, citizens are marching. Yes, the protest marches will be continuing. Two weeks ago, the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) led a March of Disgust that was attended by just around 10,000 people. This week, the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) announced its intentions to have a march of its own – a March of Respect.
The march, to be held on a date yet to be decided, will be aimed at sending a strong message to the Ministry of Education that BSTU members will not back down on their demands for payment to correct School-Based Assessment (SBA) projects.
It was an angry crowd of teachers who packed the auditorium at Solidarity House earlier this week for an emotionally charged meeting at which they decided to not only defy the ministry, but also to fight fire with fire.
The long-running feud over the SBAs escalated last week when the ministry wrote to the teachers advising that they would be slapped with misconduct charges if they refused to correct the projects, a necessary component for matriculating the various Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) certification programmes.
“The ministry has shown that they have no empathy or care for teachers and they will resort to any means necessary, which includes bullying and intimidation. We have, as members and professionals, the right to be dissatisfied and register that dissatisfaction with the Minister of Education,” BSTU president Mary Redman stated.
There was mixed reaction to the union’s plan to take to the streets in protest.
One reader said: “So when only Barbados teachers do not mark the SBAs then the Barbados students will fail the CXC…[Are] the rest of the Caribbean teachers paid to mark SBAs? If not, are they also refusing to grade the SBAs? Must say, it is very disappointing to see that all of these educators care nothing for the country’s youth. But as most of these teachers like to tell the students, them got them education already, them don’t care and it is really showing. Mrs Redman, how many days you get pay for doing union business during school hours, because you are hardly on the school compound and when you are on the compound you hardly in a classroom. Is that [fair] to the students or the taxpayers?”
However, another reader supported the union’s decision.
“I am happy to see teachers standing up for their rights. Too many people accept nonsense and we are teaching our children to do the same!! I will stand in solidarity with you!”
Meanwhile another union is also tackling the Government – but for increased pay for its workers.
“It’s not a salary increase, it’s a pay restoration!” was the latest argument put forward by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) in response to recent suggestions by outspoken minister Donville Inniss that the union’s demands for a 23 per cent pay hike for public servants is downright unreasonable.
“When the cost of living has increased by over 30 per cent, then any salary increase can no longer be considered an increase, it has to be considered as a restoration of salaries and wages,” Chairman of the NUPW’s Salary, Wages and Allowances Committee Asokore Beckles said.
One person commented: “…We know that government’s increase in spending is facilitative of specific and personal needs intended to ensure that at the end of its days, worries and fears are no more.”
Another blasted the NUPW. “How can I take someone who is insisting on a pay increase for public workers seriously when everyone is aware that the country is at the point of total collapse? I suppose that there were those in Guyana who were able to prosper while the masses suffered! What are his expectations following the collapse?”
This week Barbados recorded its 13th road fatality. The Ministry of Transport and Works issued a statement expressing deep concern about those deaths, just two and a half months into 2017. It urged all road users, whether drivers, pedestrians or cyclists, to exercise greater caution on the roads.
“Road deaths and injuries are largely preventable. Many of them are caused by inappropriate speed for the road conditions, refusal to wear a seat belt or use a child restraint, driving while under the influence of alcohol or other drug, bad judgment and, generally, driving without due care and attention,” it said.
During debate on the 2017/2018 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure last week, Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley said there would be a “comprehensive overhaul” of legislation governing the transportation sector, “hopefully in June”, that would result in better monitoring and inspection of road users.
Earlier this week, the Barbados Road Safety Association (BRSA) – at a protest – reiterated its call for breathalyzer testing to be implemented, and president Sharmane Roland-Bowen dismissed Lashley’s announcement as “false promises”.
Just short of four years earlier, in May 2013, the minister had told the second International Road Federation Caribbean Regional Congress here that his ministry was in the process of amending the Road Traffic Act to include regulations on the wearing of helmets by cyclists, semi-annual inspection of public service vehicles, annual inspection of private motor vehicles over a certain age, speeding, and the use of communication devices while driving.
With no visible signs of progress since then, Roland-Bowen told Barbados TODAY she was not taking the minister seriously.
“He has come with nothing new. This is the same thing we have been hearing all last year and the year before. Until we actually see something put in action . . . it is only false promises again,” the less than optimistic BRSA head said.
The public seemed to be on the side of Roland-Bowen, with one person saying “they also promised parking meters in the city. That was about 20 years ago. These politicians are all mad jokers.” Another said: “Disgraceful on the part of Government. What do these people do?”