BUT head fuming
President of the Barbados Union of Teachers Pedro Shepherd says the relationship between the union and the Ministry of Education is such that they no longer seem to want to collaborate.
To this end, he believes the time has come for this Union to embark on a new mission and outline a new vision which would see members recommitting themselves to the struggle of defending their terms and conditions of service and demanding the rights.
Expressing his joys of yet another year of the union honouring teachers and in the same breath the pain of relation between them and the Ministry, he hinted to a bittersweet moment at the President's Reception held at the union's Merryhill Headquarters last evening.
"We must stop being afraid to ask for what is rightfully ours. If we allow certain things to occur then they be custom and practice. We only have to look at the issue of term’s leave, short study leave, non-teaching periods to see how our terms and conditions are being eroded.
"Our right to associate and meet is now under threat and must not be allowed to take root. Holding of membership meetings is now called strikes and paid deducted. Where is the equity, fairness and justice," he lamented.
According to Mr Sheperd there have been serious efforts within the last couple of years to erode all the gains made by the late Marjorie Marshall, John Cumberbatch and John Lovell.
He referred to last May, where part of the BUT membership had issues with the employer and after several attempts to meet and find resolution failed, action was taken by the union to meet with its entire membership. "The result of which was the docking of teachers pay."
Addressing the teachers at last night's event he reminded them that six months later and after several letters written to the Permanent Secretary, meetings with the Permanent and separate meetings with the Prime Minister there is still no resolution.
He strongly believes that there is an unwillingness to bring any resolution to the matter unless force is used.
"I will shortly be seeking the approval of those members who got their pay docked and those who attended the meetings along with those who believe in unionism and in the maintenance of a fair and just society to roll out a series of actions to bring about a resolution of one kind or the other," he admonished.
He said to date some who attended the meeting have not had any money taken out, "yet the Ministry official said in a meeting at Ilaro Court that all the paperwork was done and the deductions were completed until a member of the executive said not his. The response from the Chief of 'oh, you mean not yet,' was swift and his was taken all in the month of June."
The President had taken issue with the Permanent Secretary who he says had no authority to instruct that two day’s pay of the teachers be deemed overdrawn salary.
"I am disappointed, saddened even by the route the entire discussion went and the fact that to today neither Permanent Secretary Chandler, Minister of Education or Minister of Civil Service or Prime Minister has engaged the union in any serious way on the matter," he stressed.
It is traditional every year during teachers week for the President to have a reception to honour teachers. The theme of last evening's reception was "Trade Unions Under Threat: But Resolute, Steadfast and Unswerving”