Government and the teachers’ unions appear to be on a collision course over something the teachers have been demanding for a number of years: a teaching service commission.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart this morning announced that the long-awaited independent body to manage human resources within the education sector would be proclaimed in just over a week.
Stuart told the launch of the Correspondence Management System of the Personnel Administration Division at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre that after the provisions of the relevant laws are proclaimed on October 16, he would invite the Governor General to appoint the members of the commission.
“The establishment of the Teaching Service Commission will intensify the attention given to the teaching community and provide a medium through which their concerns are appropriately ventilated,” Stuart said, adding that this was the fulfillment of an earlier promise to establish the body in response to calls from the teachers for a mechanism to address issues directly related to the teaching service.
Back in April the Prime Minister had said at a church service at Bethesda Tabernacle in Vauxhall, Christ Church to mark the 62nd anniversary of the establishment of the Democratic Labour Party that a 1974 constitutional provision for a teachers’ commission would come into effect “in a matter of weeks”.
He had also said the new body would separate teachers from other public officers, although the teachers would remain subject to the oversight of the Public Service Commission for discipline and appointments.
Today he said because of the growth of the teaching service, it deserved its own entity to look after its affairs.
“This sector of the public service has been growing rapidly and deserves, therefore, a body which it can identify as its own and which would ensure that matters related to the recruitment, appointment, promotion and discipline of teachers are given specific focus,” Stuart said.
Immediately after the Prime Minister made the announcement in April, the teachers’ unions raised concern that the process was continuing without input from them.
In fact, President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union Mary Redman had questioned how Stuart intended to set up this new entity in such a short time span when the teachers or their unions had not yet been consulted.
She had also said it made little sense to give oversight for discipline and appointments to the PSC, insisting that “nothing effectively would have changed”.
The Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) today raised more than just an eyebrow, demanding to know why the union was not consulted.
“We were asking for a teaching service commission, but of course, we were asking for a teaching service commission with a difference . . . one that would have its own chief personnel officer . . . even the makeup of the commission we wanted to be involved in making recommendations as to the type of personnel it should carry,” BUT President Pedro Shepherd told Barbados TODAY.
“So if it is at the stage where it is completed and ready to be proclaimed, then unless we can see it before the 16th [of October], then we might very well have some issues with the setup.”
Shepherd did not say how the BUT would respond should the process continue without consultation with his union, although he said “after the 16th we would have to state our opposition to anything that is therein”.
He acknowledged that the BUT had submissions on the matter, but said there had been no word from Government since.