The Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) is putting further industrial action on hold in response to progress in a row with the Ministry of Education over the “unfair dismissal” of three of its members.
BSTU President Mary Redman Tuesday afternoon announced there was movement at last from Government after teachers failed to report for work last Friday, a day after walking out early in solidarity with the fired educators.
Three secondary schools – Combermere, Graydon Sealy Secondary and St George Secondary – were the worst affected and were forced to close early.
“This evening we were able to update our members on the status of three cases of unfair dismissal. In one instance a letter has been written to the Minister of Labour seeking her intervention in the matter and in the next instance a letter has gone off to the Chief Labour Officer in an effort to resolve that matter and in the third instance we finally got word from the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of the Civil Service that we are having our grievance procedure on the 23rd of May. So after eight months we are actually going to get that grievance procedure,” Redman told the media soon after an emergency meeting at Solidarity House with the membership.
“Industrial action has been averted in so far as we have gotten the grievance procedure that we needed to get and we are of the belief that common sense, decency, caring, empathy will prevail and we will be able to address the other two matters at the levels at which they have been taken up to,” she added.
Upset over the sacking of a St Michael School teacher, a principal at the Barbados Learning Centre and a laboratory technician at Combermere School, the teachers’ union had met last Wednesday behind closed doors for a marathon session, at the conclusion of which they agreed that a drastic response was needed to what they claimed was scant respect for the industrial relations process.
Industrial action began the following day when teachers from Combermere walked out of the classroom early, disrupting classes from around 1 p.m. on Thursday, followed by Friday’s apparent sick-out.
The BSTU never admitted to orchestrating last week’s action, but pressed today to say whether the mass absences had forced the ministry to revive the negotiation process, Redman dodged the question, preferring instead to state that her union was prepared to use any effective strategy to get Government to listen to teachers’ grievances.
“I would like to know what truly grabs the attention of the powers that be because if I knew the union would certainly use that strategy to get the things attended to. So I would really love to know myself how to grab attention of the powers that be and how to get long outstanding matters resolved,” she said tongue-in-cheek.
She also cautioned that the truce would hold only as long as the authorities continued to take the teachers’ concerns seriously.