Former president of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) Wayne Poonka Willock is calling for a single teachers’ union, arguing the solidarity would make the educators stronger as they take on the Ronald Jones-led Ministry of Education.
Currently, the Mary Redman-led BSTU and the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) headed by Pedro Shepherd operate independently of each other, even though they frequently fight similar causes.
“I strongly believe that as time goes on there should be only one teachers’ union in Barbados. They need to stand together in strength and unity and show these people what is going on because this Minister of Education is the worst that we have had from [my] in education, which is 39 years. The worst,” Willock said.
He argued that with two unions representing different sections of the teaching service, the educators were deprived of sufficient protection from the ministry, which he said had no qualms about running over anyone bold enough to stand up for their rights.
“They [Ministry of Education] are very vindictive and they victimize people within their own ranks and otherwise. I have been one of the victims of that sort of political manipulation because I speak out and don’t abide by any status quo. That is ridiculous,” he said.
Willock was of the view that the ministry seemed to have no clear policies, making it dangerous to a divided teaching service.
As an example he made reference to the contentious issue of mobile phones in schools, which is opposed by the teachers unions, but which Jones insists will be allowed.
“If you follow the cell phone issue it has been an up and down ride [of], ‘yes you can use cell phones’, then, ‘no you can’t use cell phones’, now, ‘yes you can use cell phones’.
“Now you have the principals themselves kicking up against it because when you look at some of these videos going around and the sort of fighting and theft that goes on in schools as a result of cell phones, they need to make up their minds what they are doing. They need to create a firm policy and stick by it; but the ministry is confused,” stressed Willock, a former acting principal of the Princess Margaret Secondary School and a musician who was formerly involved in the Junior Calypso Monarch competition.
The former BSTU president also contended that the union’s ongoing fight for compensation for the marking of Caribbean Examination Council-administered school-based assessment projects would gain much more traction under the banner of a single teachers’ union.
The BUT has thrown its support behind the BSTU on this matter. However, Willock expressed concern that with teachers from other Caribbean islands seeming unperturbed by the SBA issue, Barbadian teachers would need to pool all of their resources if they were to have their demands met.