Minister of Education Ronald Jones said he had no intention of intervening in the impasse between the St Leonard’s Boys’ School and two of the leading public sector trade unions, even though industrial action could be mere hours away.
Jones told Barbados TODAY it was for other people to resolve the dispute over the sacking of a clerk typist on August 31.
In a letter to Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education June Chandler last week, the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) and the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) asked Chandler to arrange a meeting between the unions and the school board by tomorrow.
A rather unperturbed Jones told Barbados TODAY he had not seen the letter, and in any event he would allow the industrial relations process to run its course without his interference.
“I have not received any letter. They have sent the permanent secretary a letter and she drew it to my attention. So I am saying that those are matters for persons involved in the industrial relations process. There is the Chief Labour Officer the Minister of Labour; they [the unions] have all these people that they can make their case to. So there is no need for me to get involved,” the minister said.
His comment has raised more than an eyebrow, with Redman warning that Jones must be prepared “to face the consequences of his inaction.
“I would like to know what the minister means by that because if the board does not respond in the deadline that we gave them the next thing is for industrial action. So is the minister willing to let that happen?
“Once the minister is able to deal with the consequences then I guess that’s okay. The board is his agent and he can direct the board to respond. We wrote to the permanent secretary and ask to try to use her good office to see how she could get the board to meet to get the matter resolved. Now, how she could use her office is to persuade the minister to direct the board because she herself has no power over the board. At the moment the board has not responded to us and we had given them until tomorrow to do so,” Redman said.
Neither the BSTU nor the NUPW took responsibility for the sick out on September 29 and October 5 in solidary with the sacked worker.
However, Redman said both unions were fully prepared to do what was necessary to press for the reinstatement of the sacked worker.
The BSTU president further stated that she was disappointed that the unions were often left with no alternative but industrial action to force the authorities to take them seriously.
“It is a shame that at this stage of industrial relationship between the Ministry of Education and the union, where the only time that there is a response from the ministry is when protest action is taken and it makes a mockery of the industrial relations climate that previously existed. It also makes a mockery of the social partnership where employer and trade unions are supposed to sit down in an atmosphere of mutual respect and engage in meaningful dialogue,” Redman argued.