While the BSTU understands and appreciates the right of the employer to meet with employees the Union believes that because of the grievous nature of these particular circumstances at the Grantley Adams school, because of the fact that the Union wrote and demanded such a meeting and because the union is aware of the fact of the consultative nature and approach of the interventions that will be necessary to address this serious problem, we find it incomprehensible that the Ministry of Education has barred the Union from attending the meetings there over the last two days.
These are meetings which the BSTU had to demand because, in the other two incidents of serious student on student violence last term and last week respectively, it is our understanding that the Ministry has not had meetings with the members of staff at those schools, beyond a half hour visit at Ellerslie.
With this in mind, and with the precedent of how we had operated at St George secondary where we acted in a similar manner, demanded similar meetings and were invited along with the staff, we envisaged that the same modus operandi on the Ministry’s part would apply in this instance and that we would be in attendance at the relevant meeting.
Further, the Ministry cannot claim to have initiated such meetings in advance of our letter demanding such because this would not be in Keeping with the lack of concern and caring on their part as expressed by the fact that no senior official from the ministry visited the school the day after such a serious occurrence. Their hurried plans of a meeting were only made known after they received the BSTU’s letter indicating that staff would remove themselves from the school and turn up at the Ministry every day until a meeting was set with them and, by extension, the BSTU.
Any proactive plans on their part of a meeting with the staff would not have necessitated a reported late evening call to the principal to notify him of such neither would it have necessitated staff members being informed through the media.
To therefore deny access to the BSTU who initiated such an event, and in so doing deny the right of our members there to the type of representation and support that they wanted and requested of us at this difficult time for them was unconscionable. It is demonstrative of a continued lack of understanding of basic industrial relations by the Ministry of Education, it is a reflection of the quality of uninformed and disconnected leadership at all levels in the Ministry of Education and it is certainly a demonstration of a general lack of empathy and caring for the teachers who work in the most serious and dangerous circumstances for that Ministry.
Yesterday when the meeting ended, many of our members indicated that they were disturbed by the fact that we were not included and we promised them that we would be there today.
Overnight we received further requests for our attendance at the meeting.
Today when our Assistant General Secretary entered the meeting, he was summoned outside and told that the Union was not invited and further that they did not want the Union’s presence on the school compound. He was ushered to the gates.
When I arrived I saw him and the PRO outside the school gates and was told the same by the security guard.
We waited outside of the school gates and our first Vice President, who is a teacher there, indicated to the Ministry’s panel that the union officers, including the president, were at the gates and that the staff wanted them to join the meeting.
This was denied and so she left the meeting along with the other shop stewards and some other members of the BSTU. Some other teachers, who are not our members, and some members of the BUT also left the meeting prematurely and left the school compound. So did one or two of our members who stated that they were too emotionally distraught to stay. One was headed for the doctor.
The general feeling from those speaking to us after the meeting was one of dissatisfaction at the conduct of the meetings. They felt today that persons were not truly interested in what they were saying, that they were dismissive and disrespectful (cutting some persons off in the middle of their contributions to allow others to speak), they stated that some Ministry officials seem more intent on recording person’s names, subjects taught and the positions they held rather than truly listening to what they had to say, some said that they felt insulted by the fact that one of the most senior Ministry officials was very busy on the cell phone for the duration of the meeting and her facial expressions and body language indicated a total lack of concern in the proceedings.
The staff indicated that they are not satisfied with what has transpired, the conduct of the meeting and the denial of the presence of the BSTU. They felt that their Union had been disrespected.
They have stated a lack of optimism in relation to any major improvements in the circumstances at the school in the immediate future.
The staff also expressed concern that, whereas the BSTU was not allowed to be present the Government Information Service was represented there for two days. Teachers said that the personal nature of many of the issues that they attempted to report on should not have been made available in that way to the GIS.
The general dissatisfaction and reservation expressed at the proceedings means that the Union will have to meet with them in short order to address these relevant matters.
(Statement by the BSTU)