The Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) is threatening “very serious” action in support of three of its members, whom it contended were “unfairly dismissed”, saying this was its only remaining course of action.
The union is upset over the dismissal of a St Michael School teacher, a principal at the Barbados Learning Centre and a laboratory technician at Combermere School, describing their sacking as textbook examples of egregious violations of the grievance procedures by the three school boards.
BSTU President Mary Redman Wednesday said despite the union’s best efforts to adhere to industrial relations best practices, the three cases, one of which dates back almost eight months, were no closer to being resolved.
“This meeting has been called to apprise the press of some serious ongoing concerns of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union that indicate to us that our actions to resolve them may have to be very serious ones . . . . Officials in the Ministry of Education and members of boards of management do not understand their responsibility to stop the process from escalating from a grievance to a dispute. We don’t know if they are doing it purposefully,” Redman said at a news conference at the union’s headquarters at Belleville, St Michael.
“In a situation where recently ministers of Government have stated that unions are taking industrial action first before they negotiate, tell me how in heaven’s name, eight months after you attempted to start a process, you cannot sit down and have the type of meeting that could bring resolution to the matter? What position does it put the woman in? What are unions left to do to secure the rights of their members?”
The union’s shop stewards met behind closed doors Tuesday for a marathon session at the conclusion of which it was determined that a drastic response was needed in the face of what was deemed to be scant respect shown for the industrial relations process by the school boards, the Ministry of Education and the Labour Department.
Redman was particularly stinging in her criticism of the board of management of Combermere, saying they all should resign because they were an “embarrassment to the Minister of Education [Ronald Jones], who appointed them”.
She contended that the rationale for the dismissal of the lab technician, who the union claimed was not allowed to defend herself against an “unsubstantiated” report, demonstrated ineptitude on the part of the board.
“Besides the disregard shown by that board, the chairman stated that the decision to terminate our member was made based on a report that they had received. Our member had never received a copy of that report, neither had the union received a copy of the report. As you know that is a denial of the basic rights of any worker in this country. Workers are supposed to see reports, especially negative reports based on them,” Redman said.
The tone of Wednesday’s briefing was a far cry from that which the BSTU leader had adopted when she met the media last month after four hours of talks at the ministry’s Constitution Road headquarters where they had discussed working conditions at St George Secondary School.
That meeting had ended with uninhibited expressions of emotion by the teachers, who at the time had said they had felt as if their concerns were finally being taken seriously.
In fact, 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 had augured well for future industrial relations.