The threat that had been left hanging last week over the start of the new academic term has been lifted, with President of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) Pedro Shepherd saying he expects a “smooth start” tomorrow.
“We predict a smooth start to school tomorrow. We haven’t had any complaints or anything, so we do look forward to a smooth start. We look forward to beginning this term on a very smooth note,” Shepherd told Barbados TODAY this afternoon following a tour of the St Lawrence Primary School in Christ Church.
This is vastly different from the militant stand that the BUT boss had taken last Thursday when he addressed the final day of the union’s annual conference.
Back then, he hinted at industrial action over the vexing issue of docked pay – also a concern for the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU), which had called a meeting of its membership today to make battle plans in the event the Ministry of Education had stuck to its threat to dock the salaries of teachers who, earlier this month, had attended the BSTU’s March of Respect to press for a resolution to a number of issues, including payment for the marking of school-based assessment projects administered by the Caribbean Examinations Council.
“Would the BUT be unjustified in calling out the members on this matter after 11 months of waiting for common sense to prevail?” Shepherd had asked members.
“Clearly, when the ministry told us that they sent off the information to the Solicitor General for her advice and the subsequent announcements by the Minister of Education and several members of Cabinet, we were supposed to forget the issue and pronounce it dead, never to be resurrected, and thus treat it as our blood shed for our sins for wanting a hearing, due process, respect, fairness and justice from the employer.
“Let me inform you that . . . the docking of pay . . . is not dead as we shall witness in short order. As a matter of fact it has risen and it is alive today as it was in May last year and it will be fought to the death.”
There were no such threats today, and no reference to the docking of pay, only concerns about the health and comfort of students and staff of the St Lawrence Primary School.
Even then, Shepherd was conciliatory in tone, saying the ministry was working to remedy the situation.
“A number of concerns obviously were raised with the union. They stem from environmental problems, wells overflowing at some point, wells being in the middle of the playing field and rodents running through the roof periodically. The major concern is the building on the roadside, which has been closed for about two terms. Some work has gone into it but some teachers believe it still isn’t habitable. We have gone into the building ourselves and we have noticed that it isn’t habitable in terms of dust or so on. So we are about to put together a report and send it off to the ministry and voice the concerns of the teachers at St Lawrence,” he explained.
“The school will be open tomorrow. The same arrangement they had last year will apply. Some teachers will go into other classrooms; they will share and so on until what is considered to be the old building is habitable.
“It is something the ministry would work on post haste because it’s an issue of space and some teachers are sharing so, the ministry will look into that. Work is actually ongoing, so it’s just a matter of having it industrially cleaned and the scent leaving the room and so on so the teachers can occupy it. I don’t think it’s going to be a long time before the teachers can use it,” he added.
With regard to students of St Paul’s Primary School who were relocated to the Collymore Rock Nazarene Church last term because of leaking roofs, Shepherd said they would return to the school when classes resume tomorrow. (DB)