President of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) Pedro Shepherd has called for regular meetings between the teachers’unions and the Ministries of Education and the Civil Service to address ongoing concerns affecting the island’s educators.
Shepherd’s call comes in the wake of recent talks between education officials and teachers of St George Secondary School centred on environmental concerns and problems of indiscipline among students.
Following the talks, teachers said they felt their concerns were finally being taken seriously.
Last September, Minister of Education Ronald Jones had also met with teachers after repeated calls by the educators for an audience with him. Among the issues raised in the three-hour discussion were the vexed issue of security in schools, general problems of indiscipline and health and safety concerns.
However, still not satisfied that the issues affecting his membership have been fully ventilated, the BUT president used his address to this week’s Labour Day rally to not only stress the union’s commitment to maintaining high and sustained levels of productivity within the teaching service, but also to lament the fact that teachers did not enjoy the best conditions of service, and sometimes had to operate without essential facilities and materials.
“Despite these things, teachers go to schools and other educational institutions every day to give of their best and nothing less,” Shepherd said.
“Of course, there are some of us who might say we are not producing as teachers, we are not producing as we should, and to that we might concur. I would agree that more can be done to produce more, [but] of course one needs to have the materials and tools necessary to do so.
“Let us appreciate the immense contribution teachers make to Barbados against great odds. We are calling today, May Day, Labour Day 2017 for the concerns of the teaching fraternity to be addressed by having regular meetings with the Ministries of Education and the Civil Service,” he added.
Shepherd also said teachers needed to feel as though their work was valued and appreciated by way of tenure.
“It is to this end that we call for all teachers with three to five years of acting or temporary service, to be appointed in short order, and for hundreds of others to be confirmed in their appointments,” he said.
Reflecting on the theme of this year’s May Day celebrations, A Productive People, A Productive Nation, the BUT leader stressed the union’s commitment to remain “a strong employee voice” for the island’s teachers.
“If we are to subscribe to the notion that trade unions are central to improving productivity, then it is indeed even more critical for us to recognize that a strong employee voice is crucial for the achievement of sustainable, fair and productive growth,” he said.