The days of seeing the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) and the Ministry of Education slugging it out in the media over industrial relations matters are over, says newly-elected BUT President Sean Spencer.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY this morning, Spencer said that “addressing relations with the ministry” topped his list of priorities.
“It is one of the most urgent matters that we have to deal with. First of all, you would think that matters would be discussed at the table, instead of in the public domain. There would certainly be more adherences to more formal procedure as opposed to just being out and about with things.
“Our discussion with the ministry will be more formalized, meaningful and productive,” he stressed.
However, the new president made it
clear that while the emphasis was on adherence to industrial relations best practices, it did not mean the BUT would be any less robust in terms of defending the rights of its members.
“Industrial relations by definition is adversarial, so in that respect we would be strongly defending our constituents. However, what we will no longer do is continue with the public pronouncements because it is a matter of being more prudent in how one operates. At the end of the day we still have to respect the employers,” Spencer explained.
Spencer, a teacher at The Foundation School, was elected to the top post last Friday with 174 votes, unseating Pedro Shepherd who had been at the helm of the teachers’ union for the past six years. Shepherd mustered 154 votes in the election, while his other challenger, Everton Briggs, secured 126 votes.
Delivering the president’s address at the BUT’s 44th General Conference just four days before the election, Shepherd in his bid to secure a seventh term, had said that some members were unhappy with his decision to adapt a less adversarial approach when dealing with the ministry.
“In October 2017, I recognized that dealing with the ministry and many Government departments in general was becoming too stressful. I therefore took a decision to be less combative in my approach and to try a more diplomatic and accommodating approach to solving issues with the Ministry of Education . . . . I know that this approach has not gone done well with some members who believe that the union needs to be more aggressive and to call on its members more often,” Shepherd said.
However, Spencer told Barbados TODAY there were a number of other outstanding matters which continued to test the patience of teachers.
“We are going to be seeking to tackle a number of issues which have been left on the table. There are quite a number of outstanding issues in addition to those that are now coming to bear. Included in those would be occupational health and safety. There are a number of issues with appointments in secondary schools, there are also matters concerning the evaluation system, which is proving problematic in some schools because there has not been the adherence to the approved procedure,” the new BUT president stressed.