Tensions between the Ministry of Education and the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) are once again poised to reach to the boil.
As the union’s shop stewards met behind closed doors Tuesday afternoon at the BSTU’s Belleville, St Michael headquarters, sources told Barbados TODAY that industrial action could possibly be on the cards over what the union perceives to be the recent “unfair dismissal” of several teachers.
Sources revealed that a meeting had been scheduled for last Friday between education officials and the teachers’ union to discuss the contentious matter.
However, that meeting was reportedly cancelled, without a new date being set.
“We are contemplating industrial action. The ministry was supposed to meet with us and they gave us a date for [last] Friday and then they called us on Friday and told us that they were not ready for meeting,” one source explained.
The BSTU official also said that since then, the ministry has not been responding to calls from the union’s hierarchy for a new date to be set.
“We cannot get hold of them since then to find out what is going on and this is the kind of disrespect that they are treating us with,” the source added.
In terms of the actual dismissals, the union official expressed concern that one female teacher was recently sacked without ever seeing any reports relating to her performance.
Ironically, the development has served to worsen tensions between the two sides just when it appeared they were turning over a new leaf in their hitherto rocky relationship.
Last month, they met for four-hours at the ministry’s Constitution Road headquarters to discuss working conditions at St George Secondary School and that meeting ended with uninhibited expressions of emotion by the educators, who at the time said they felt as if their concerns were finally being taken seriously.
In fact, BSTU President Mary Redman was unable to hold back the tears after that meeting, and later told Barbados TODAY that the sensitivity with which ministry officials – including Chief Education Officer Karen Best – had responded to her members’ frustrations, augured well for future industrial relations.
However, those gains now appear to be squandered, with the BSTU again accusing Government of treating teachers with contempt. Today, one official made it clear that the union was not prepared to sit on its hands while some of its members languished without a definite source of income.
Tuesday’s BSTU meeting, which began at 3:30 p.m. ended around 9 p.m., with no official announcements being made.
However, Redman has promised to hold a press conference Wednesday to update the media on her union’s position.