Frost: BSTU acted within its rights

An advisor to the trade union representing more than two dozen Alexandra School teachers who took industrial action in January is unhappy with the way it was treated by some Government officials.

Barbados Secondary Teachers Union consultant, Patrick Frost, said that organisation was acting within its lawful rights when it sought to have the Chief Personnel Officer resolve a dispute involving Principal Jeff Broomes.

But he said the union was unhappy with the response it received and exercised its right to call its members at the Alexandra School out on strike.

He was giving evidence this afternoon at the Commission of Enquiry into Alexandra, held at the Wildey Gymnasium, Garfield Sobers Sports Complex.

In December last year the BSTU wrote the CPO requesting intervention in the industrial dispute, but that office responded and told the union it was not following established grievance procedures, which required it to have the matter dealt with firstly at the level of the Ministry of Education.

“The letters that have been written by the Chief Personnel Officer to the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union saying that we should have followed the grievance procedure shows a misunderstanding of the difference between a personal grievance and an issue of a complaint, grievance or a breach between a trade union as an entity and the government as an employer, and therein lies the difference,” Frost testified.

“Never let us forget that how a trade union deals with its matters lies at its sole discretion. Sometimes we would take legal advice, your honour, but in other times we do what is necessary and expedient in the circumstances to maintain what trade unions have been able to get for workers in Barbados and elsewhere as a result of certain efforts.

“The Chief Personnel Officer suggests there is a process which has to come through the Ministry of Education, but there is another factor in industrial relations a trade union can accelerate a process at any time. There is not law in that regard, but the trade union acts as it sees fit in the interest of its members,” he added. He also said if the CPO thought the union had “jumped the gun” this should have been pointed out to it.

“She (the CPO) is there to interact with the union in an industrial relations exercise and therefore she has an obligation,” he said.

He told the commission since there was “no attempt at dialogue by the employer or any agents of the employer” the BSTU “took industrial action”. (SC)

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