War on Jones

Teachers want nothing short of an apology from Minister of Education

Starting tomorrow, this island’s teachers will be on a “work-to-rule”.

President of the umbrella Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) Pedro Shepherd made the announcement today as an estimated 500 unionized educators gathered in Queen’s Park, The City — which is located directly opposite to Ministry of Education’s Constitution Road headquarters — in a strong show of disapproval over Minister of Education Ronald Jones’ refusal to meet with them to iron out a number of pressing issues.

Pedro Shepherd & Ronald Jones
Pedro Shepherd & Ronald Jones

Shepherd, in an address to the large gathering, also disclosed that he would be writing a letter to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart seeking his intervention in the impasse.

That letter to the Prime Minister was to be delivered this evening.

However, if the BUT does not get a meeting with Jones over the next two weeks, Shepherd said the union was prepared to call out its members to another meeting to discuss the next stage of protest action.

For the past three weeks, the teachers’ union has been demanding a meeting with Jones, but their request has been turned down.

And at the end of their near four-hour long meeting today, which ended promptly at 1 p.m., Shepherd told journalists the union was in “a fighting mood” and nothing was going to “turn” members back “unless we have a meeting” with Jones.

“From here we are asking the members to institute a work-to-rule. I know if is not going to be a hundred per cent because teachers love their children and they are going to do whatever they can to be at school as early as possible and leave when the last child leaves. But I am saying our school day starts at 8:45 [a.m.], if people are not thankful for the job we do outside of the school hours then we work from 8:45 until 3 [p.m.], making sure that we observe the ILO [International Labour Organization] convention and have an hour for lunch as well,” he explained.

As to the contents of his letter to the Prime Minister, Shepherd said: “I am going to ask him to organize/set up a meeting of the Barbados Union of Teachers, whether it be the executive or full membership, and the Ministry of Education, whether it be the Minister, Permanent Secretary, Chief Education Officer and others, or a larger delegation from the ministry,” he said.

“But whether that is done in a small way or not, I think the ultimate thing that we need is for the Ministry of Education to meet with us. So even if the Prime Minister meets a small group of us, we still want the Minister of Education to meet with teachers,” added Shepherd.

Declaring war on the Ministry of Education, the BUT President said “it is not war where we are going to bring our guns blazing”.

Instead, he said, “we are simply saying to the minister we are in that mood where we expect you to come and resolve these issues. Otherwise we will do what we have to do.

“It means meeting once per week [or] twice per week during school time, because we are not going to meet with our members outside of school time. We are going to put pressure and if pressure means that we have to meet during school we are prepared to meet during school time,” a defiant Shepherd told reporters.

Earlier, he had told the gathering of teachers that between them and the ministry about 27 issues had been identified in previous meetings to be discussed and addressed.

These, Shepherd said, included violence in schools; safety and health issues; school closure and policy relating to water outages and stench; summer work programme; terms leave; study leave; information technology coordinators; punctuality and absenteeism; early childhood coordinators; teacher service commission; appointment of temporary teachers; teacher evaluation; corporal punishment; mobile technology policy; replacement of technology in schools; as well as issues involving a number of secondary schools, including Parkinson and Alma Paris.

“If we had sat with the Ministry of Education and we had mutually agreed on all of these issues here, we wouldn’t be here [today]. . . We declare war on the Ministry,” he said to loud cheers.

“And we are going to continue our meetings whether they be in central Barbados, northern Barbados or eastern Barbados, because everybody in Barbados needs to know our concerns,” said Shepherd, pointing out that the main reason for having the meeting in Queen’s Park was to bring the issues close to the Ministry of Education since Jones had refused to meet with them.

“Next from here has to be working to rule. So as you go to school tomorrow, tell your colleagues that we are working to rule. We go in at 8:45 [a.m.] and leave at 3 [p.m.]. Do not go in before, because if something happens and you do not attend to it you are being held liable. So do not go in before 8:45 a.m.,” he pleaded with the teachers.

“That is the call now. That will continue until the Prime Minister receives our letter and responds to it by saying, ‘I am prepared to intervene in this situation because it can only get worse if my Minister of Education continues to be the stubborn person he is.’”

In response to reports that Jones had requested a list of teachers who were at the last BUT meeting, Shepherd described it as a “scare tactic”, while warning the schools’ authorities not to “disappoint any of these teachers here today by docking their pay for attending any of our meetings.

“ . . . You will see who will get disappoint,” he further cautioned.

The BUT president also called on the public not to jump to conclusions but to “give us a fair hearing and let the process be gone through”.

Among today’s crowd were General Secretary of the umbrella Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados Dennis DePeiza and Opposition Shadow Minister of Education Edmund Hinkson.

However, the BUT’s Public Relations Officer Dwane Goddard expressed disappointment at today’s turn out, which was less than that registered for its previous two meetings.

Shepherd also reported that while the meeting was going on, he received reports that teachers who stayed at school had as many as 70 students in one classroom.

He also said while teachers had brought “charts” with them to today’s meeting, the union had not asked for permission to use them and so they did not. However, he said if forced to call another meeting “we are going to make sure we ask permission to use placards”.

Starting that the island’s educators were doing a fantastic job, the union leader called on Jones and other Government officials to “stop bashing teachers”.

He also suggested that Jones should “eat some humble pie, come down from his laurels and say to teachers, ‘I am sorry’”.


5 Responses to War on Jones

  1. Mike May 5, 2016 at 7:01 am

    I don’t see why these issues have to be at the expense of our children. I think the unions are playing politics and the minister Jones should put them in their place. Today we have a culture of dislocating very people we depends on to out food on our table
    Companies holding meeting during working hours and customers having to look for alternative. Unions holding meetings during school time. No one care any more about those they are services. We need to put a stop to this and the ministry should set the example. Customers should boycott any business who close during business hours hold meetings. It should be illegal for unions to hold meeting with schools during school hours.

  2. Vangura May 5, 2016 at 7:16 am

    People should stop using the schools as a day care center and use it as an institution for learning. Unions have a right to call out their people in protest, if they think something is wrong. If people would teach their children to go to school and learn and behave and the Minister would listen to the people every now and again and not do what he thinks, this wouldn’t be a problem.

  3. 3rdsun May 5, 2016 at 7:45 am

    PEDRO SHEPARD RESIGN!!!!! STOP THE BULLYING. Mary Redman really rubbing off on you.

  4. Sherlock Holmes. May 5, 2016 at 10:52 am

    Just like Mary Redman you have seriously erred are you aware of the rights of a child? When you can publicly speak in a forum about what was relayed to you by a female teacher about a five year old looking under her skirt and you put it over in a manner which was clearly an indictment on the child’s parents ,we have heard of such reports which i would prefer not to go into as i do not want to appear as perverted as you sounded in that forum.I however would like to know what methods of intervention were employed to help that little five year old boy that you publicly ridiculed as well as his parents,and the thing is your assumption without proof is that he most likely learned such a behavior at home.If this particular incident is true you have now started a situation whereby this boy has become the center of unwarranted attention especially if the incident is rehashed in the minds of those who would have known about it,we know how our society works.Another thing Mr Shepherd children at such an age are not culpable and there are laws which speaks to the way matters pertaining to children sixteen years and under should be dealt with and it is prescribed that such matters should be dealt with in camera,so as to avoid public ridicule and embarrassment to children,what you did yesterday in mentioning that incident has more than likely rekindled so much embarrassment to that child’s parents,in your zeal to get over your points you are doing a lot of damage i would advise you to be careful lest you end up having to face legal action on your own,you are going too far.

  5. Sherlock Holmes. May 5, 2016 at 11:01 am

    By the way what about the stories that are now knocking all over the place about male teachers, being involved with female students are these all lies? Should we ignore such stories because teachers are perceived to do no wrong? Mr SHEPHERD you are going down a road that is at this time placing teachers under more scrutiny the stories are emerging on the streets,whether they are true or not you will have to be prepared for the backlash,because as you have said you want a war.


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