Teachers’ issues yet to be settled

Addressing the 41st annual conference last night, the Barbados Union of Teachers president Pedro Shepherd listed some of the issues faced by teachers in the preceding year and beyond.

A few were resolved, and others remained without a solution, sometimes for years, he said.

Here are these issues reported by Shepherd on the first day of the week-long conference at Almond Caterers in Hastings, Christ Church.

BUT president Pedro Shepherd addressing the teachers’ conference.
BUT president Pedro Shepherd addressing the teachers’ conference.

Alma Parris. “The BUT tonight feels a sense of pain to see that its attempts to represent its members were treated as non-issues by the Ministry of Education . . . . We understand that a plan of action which ends in July, 2015, has been put in place . . . and we will await the recommendations.”

Parkinson Memorial. “Again the modus operandi of the ministry was true to form on the Parkinson School issue. The only difference now was that the acting permanent secretary and the Acting Chief Education Officer had the power of the mighty pen and wrote strongly worded letters threatening teachers, indicating some of the same terms and conditions contained in the collective bargaining document we cannot get.

“Word is that an investigation is on-going at Parkinson with an end date again of July, 2015. So we await word in September, 2015.”

Society Primary. “Teachers had raised the alarm about the mildew on the wall, the termite trails, the collapsing stairs, the rotten flooring in the principal’s office and other areas upstairs, and the union got a beating from senior ministry officials. A decision was eventually made in September to close the school.”

Grazettes Primary. “There was an issue of a strange odour emanating there, and when investigated it was found to be the residue from a fogging exercise that went wrong. The environment has [since] been given a clean bill of health and teachers are back.”

St Jude’s. “Conditions were deplorable and the school had to be relocated in a nearby church building while work was done on water-soaked floors and mildew walls, in addition to serious ventilation concerns.”

Reassignment of teachers. “Every end of contract, whether it be short-term, termly or yearly, temporary teachers are expected to write letters seeking reassignment. The warning is therefore being issued tonight to all principals and senior management, who think that they are all-powerful, to desist from threatening temporary teachers about the fact that they have to write reports on them; also to education officers who are trying to micromanage schools in their particular districts.”

Appointment of temporary teachers. “Over the last 12 months, again the BUT has been agitating for the Ministry of Education to recommend to the Ministry of the Civil Service to have teachers appointed at both the primary and secondary levels, but more particularly at the primary level where teachers have responded to a December 13, 2013 advertisement for teachers to be appointed to the teaching service of Barbados . . . .“Fifteen months later, not even an acknowledgement letter to those who applied, and so persons are not even sure if their applications were opened and considered, or opened and shredded.

“At the secondary level, the BUT wants to urge boards of management to proceed expeditiously in filling all vacancies. Our intelligence reveals that persons have been interviewed in excess of five years and cannot up to this time receive their instruments of appointment.”

Teacher evaluation. “When is the ministry going to see that the process is properly instituted in all schools? At present, the process is not legally followed in most schools, and again teachers, particularly temporary ones, are pressured by principals to get them done.”

Subject coordinators. “When is the ministry going to ensure that this issue which we have been speaking to for over eight years will be addressed? Why aren’t all of the early childhood coordinators, information technology coordinators and designates, language arts and mathematics coordinators not in place today and paid? For those in place, why are some now being paid and others, not?”

Ministry/BUT relations. “During the year, one would have witnessed an almost total breakdown between the Ministry of Education and the union. The ministry has determined since 2012, for example, that meetings (known as quarterly meetings) were to be no more, even though we have been writing practically every quarter requesting them [so] that issues can be dealt with at that level.”

School-Based Assessment. “The Barbados Union of Teachers in principle gave support the call for compensation [for School-Based Assessments]. We have met with and heard from some of our teachers who support the compensation, but we have not yet been able to poll the entire membership affected by the SBA; and, until that is done, there can be no definitive union position on this matter. However, I think that, as a teachers’ trade union, we must have an input on a matter as critical as this.

Teachers Service Commission. In 1996, there was a draft document prepared three years prior for the establishment of a Teachers Service Commission. Three years ago the minister said he had a document ready for Parliament in months.

“About a year and a half ago the union received correspondence from the ministry asking us to say whether we were for or against such a commission. We replied that we were for a commission. Then the minister, again, said he was waiting on the unions for comment on the document that does not exist.

“Twenty-two years later, we are no further than political posturing on the creation of a Teachers Service Commission.”

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