A change at the top in education may be just the lesson that needed to be learned for an apparent outbreak of peace between the main teachers’ union and the ministry, as the union is reporting that two years of contentious issues are on the verge of being resolved after just six hours of talks today with new Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw.
When Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) president Mary Redman emerged from the meeting, several issues of dismissals, appointments and hiring practices, were well on their way to being finally resolved in the coming weeks, she told Barbados TODAY.
“The Minister set a tone that we are all hoping that will continue in terms of the relationship between the BSTU and officials from the Ministry of Education. It was really very encouraging because there are some long-outstanding issues that we were able to finally ventilate and we can see that there is some movement towards having them resolved in the very near future and we are very happy about this,” said Redman, flanked by members of her executive.
The BSTU president did not venture into details about the individual matters discussed. In the days before the May general election the BSTU reported they were making no headway with the ministry, then under Ronald Jones, over the controversial dismissal of three union members.
The first incident involved a principal at The Learning Centre who was dismissed in December 2016 without being given a reason for her termination, Redman had said. The union contended that the principal was not in breach of contract. The union also alleged that a lab assistant from the Combermere School was terminated in February 2017 based on a report that she never got to see.
The BSTU was also aggrieved over the dismissal of St Michael School teacher who was initially employed part time but was not rehired after “three years of providing excellent teaching service”.
In each case, the union claimed that they were being given the runaround, with last minute cancellations of talks or sometimes flat-out refusals to negotiate from school boards, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Civil Service.
But today was a different story, with the minister indicating that these issues were not expected to linger well into the new school year, Redman said.
“The Minister seems to be very action-oriented and once that sort of atmosphere is created and the tone is set then we all know that it trickles down and shows others beneath the status of minister to treat to the issues of the union,” she said.
Violence in schools, a major challenge in the last academic year, is also expected to be dealt with in a meeting with the minister the week before students and teachers head back to the classroom next month .
“We are going to deal with the issue of school violence on the 5th of September because we had 23 items on the agenda given the fact that we have not had a meeting with the Ministry in over a year. The issues were many and they were mainly members’ issues. We want to deal with these issues today because they had implications for the start of the school term,” the union boss said.