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Still simmering

by Donna Sealy

BSTU delegation heading into meeting at Ministry of Education this evening.

The union representing the majority of teachers being transferred from the Alexandra School next week has started a major fight back against the action.

And this is occurring as Barbados TODAY learnt this evening that the Ministry of Education, in association for the Personnel Administration Division, had been forced to recall at least two of the transfer letters for teachers going to and from the Alexandra School. According to sources, one of the non-Alexandra teachers down for transfer was pregnant and to move her would have been in contravention of established practice.

Meanwhile, at the request of its members, the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados will meet in emergency session on Monday to discuss the transfers, its president Cedric Murrell, said today.

In a show of defiance, the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union announced this evening that despite being reassigned to new schools from Monday, two of its members would be reporting for work at the St. Peter institution on Monday as usual.

Furthermore, said BSTU President, Mary Redman, two of their shop stewards at the St. Peter school who also received letters, would be among those attending the planning session on the first day of the new term.

And as she and a BSTU delegation prepared to meet with Ministry of Education officials this evening, the trade unionist also revealed that her organisation had also written Prime Minister Freundel Stuart outlining their concerns, while also soliciting the support of trade union colleagues in Barbados and the region.

This unequivocal position was indicated in an 11-page release issued at 3:21 p.m. and ahead of the meeting with the Ministry of Education this evening, that they are ready to take their case to court if necessary.

The head of the trade union noted that the two teachers “cannot be transferred without their consent since they fall under the Memorandum of Understanding negotiated by the BSTU since the early 1980s” and neither could the shop stewards since such a move was contrary to ILO Convention No 135 which concerns “Protection and Facilities to be Afforded to Workers’ Representatives in the Undertaking”.

Redman said that to date, the union met with Alexandra teachers and others teachers in the system in receipt of transfer letters; had written and asked for a meeting with the ministry and the chief personnel officer as well as to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart outlining their concerns.

“We have written to CTUSAB and copied to all its affiliates asking for an emergency executive meeting and we have written to Education International and the Caribbean Union of Teachers asking them to write letters of support to key senior Government officials,” she said.

Redman described the ministry’s action as “nothing more than one of vindictiveness made by people without a close personal knowledge of the operations of the secondary school and intended to show that if teachers object to administrators they can be moved willy nilly”.

“This is to discourage such action in the future. We are also of the view that the exercise of the power of transfer is being applied unreasonably and unfairly — with the exception of the case of Mr. Broomes,” she added.

The BSTU head said that the transfer of teachers coincides with the transfer of the principal.

“A reason for the transfer of the principal may be implied from the antecedents of his conduct and the resulting actions, including the School Inspection Report and that of the Commission of Enquiry. However, The Ministry of Education, having made the recommendations, will have to provide the reasons for the other transfers since any reasonable grounds are not immediately implicit and none have been provided to either the teachers or the Union.

“Indeed, the absence of any such reason allows the interpretation that the transfers are motivated by a desire to break the BSTU as a trade union. First, the Minister of Education has been at times less than complimentary to the BSTU and reacted angrily at the union’s effective declining of his invitation to take part in a meeting early in 2012 which he had called to try to resolve the impasse.

“Secondly, Karen Best is currently Deputy Chief Education Officer with responsibility for schools. As the president of the BUT she distanced herself and her trade union when the BSTU requested support for its position against the actions of Mr. Broomes as principal. It is difficult to separate those two officials from the decision making process in the Ministry of Education.

“The third person holding high office in the Ministry of Education is the chief education officer. It was his duty under the Education Act to see that the recommendations of the inspection report were implemented. There is little evidence, if any, of an attempt to discharge those statutory duties and no reasonable basis to justify their abandonment. There is no evidence of official disapproval of his actions, let alone reprimand. All this encourages the belief that he was part of the shield to protect Mr. Broomes, a shield now extended to inflict injury in reprisal,” Redman stated.

She therefore “condemned” the ministry for a breach of its own policy in respect of transfers and cited section 13.4 on page 11 which states: “It has been agreed by the ministry that teachers should be given adequate notice in relation to transfers and that such transfers should not be seen as punitive. There are occasions however when short notices may be unavoidable on the basis of the particular situation.

“It is the union’s view that the transfers cannot be properly “seen” as anything other than punitive, and that the particular situation cannot justify any shortness of notice.

Finally, the union is prepared to meet at a moment’s notice the Public Service Commission or any other Government entity that can bring appropriate resolution to this matter once and for all.

Barbados TODAY understands that there was a closed door meeting Chief Personnel Officer, Gail Atkins, Broomes, his legal counsel and General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers, Dennis Clarke. However, sources declined to state what was the outcome of the meeting.

However, tonight, well informed sources said talks this evening between the BSTU and senior education officials appeared to achieve little as the ministry “refused to answer questions posed by the union’s delegation”.

One Response to Still simmering

  1. Jacynth Bourne January 7, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    Are these moves punitive, vindictive or thoughtless?

    All three, but more so thoughtless as they affect both teacher or child. They are definitely the work of persons who are ignorant of the school system and arrogant with it as well. One old friend of mine would say “ignorance when coupled with arrogance is toxic”.

    Much focus has been placed on the “importance of the child” in the Alexandra fiasco but this is truly sad for teachers and children and indeed the entire education system of a country that is seen to be at the forefront of education.

    Remove the Principal from Alexandra (a law unto himself) and the teachers return to their respective schools to complete their work with the examination students and perform any moves in July 2013 in preparation for September 2013.


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