Legal showdown

Teachers’ union goes to court over docked pay

The Ministry of Education and the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) are heading for a legal showdown after teachers’ salaries were docked for participating in a protest march back in April.

A preemptive strike last week by the BSTU failed to achieve the desired result, as it tried to bar the Ronald Jones-led ministry from cutting its members’ pay.

An injunction filed last Thursday could not be heard on Friday as expected because Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education June Chandler was not served until late Friday.

By the time the hearing was held today before Justice Pamela Beckles the teachers’ pay had already been docked, prompting the union to sue Government in an attempt to have their pay restored, according to BSTU President Mary Redman.

BSTU President Mary Redman (left) and Combermere School teacher Reverend Charles Morris speaking to reporters after today’s hearing.

“It was only just Wednesday last week that we heard that there were plans afoot and we very quickly went into action in an attempt to get the injunction filed and stop the process, but the time frame given was very small, a very short period in which we had to act,” Redman said, adding that her members were “extremely angry and frustrated” over the ministry’s decision.

Following a 20-minute hearing, which got underway at 11:30 a.m., the union’s attorney Gregory Nicholls announced that both parties had agreed to expedite the hearing of the substantive matter, with a pre-trial review set for October 18.

“What the parties have agreed is that the matter not being one of great factual contention, meant that we would expedite the process and go straight to trial. The court has set dates for the filing of submissions and the filing of further affidavit evidence for the pre-trial review date on October 18. As you would appreciate the court goes on vacation in August, so we lose that month,” Nicholls said.

The attorney-at-law, who also represents the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) in a similar matter which dates back two years, argued that the abatement of the teachers’ pay was a breach of their constitutional rights.   

He also charged that the teachers were denied due process, as disciplinary action was effectively taken without first “charging [and] finding the educators guilty of being absent without a reasonable explanation.

“The challenge is predicated on the basis that the Permanent Secretary does not have the authority in law to abate salaries of teachers,” the attorney told journalists.

Nicholls argued that by docking the teachers’ pay the ministry had taken disciplinary action against them, something he said only the Governor General, acting on the advice of the Public Service Commission, had the legal authority to do.

“This is enshrined in the Constitution of Barbados and therefore the Constitution of Barbados being supreme law, any process that does not have the Governor General acting on the advice of the [Public] Service Commission is in breach of the constitutional provisions.”

Stopping short of describing the ministry’s action as sneaky, Nicholls lamented that the teachers were not formally told that their salaries would be docked, stressing that “it was in poor taste”.

“To abate salaries without teachers knowing, leaving them to discover what happened only after they were paid, is really procedurally unfair because most of them would have gotten permission from their respective principals,” he maintained.

After some 200 members of the 500-strong BSTU took to the streets on April 5 in what they had dubbed a March of Respect to press their case for payment to correct school-based assessment (SBA) projects administered by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), Jones had told a Democratic Labour Party meeting at the George Lamming Primary School on April 9 that the adage of “no work, no pay” applied to the union’s march during school hours – a suggestion that their pay should be docked.

The comment had angered Redman who fired back at the union’s annual general meeting two days later, telling Jones in a fiery address that it would take more than threats of docked pay to stop teachers from standing up for their rights.

It was at that meeting that she also said the teachers would fight tooth and nail against any attempts to tamper with their salaries.

Jones today sought to distance himself from the issue, telling Barbados TODAY he was unaware of the docking of the teachers’ pay.

“I don’t know anything about that. It is not something the Minister of Education is involved with. I am a policymaker; I am not the individual who deals with the docking of pay. A minister can’t dock anybody’s pay or recommend that anybody’s pay be docked. That is not at all the remit of the minister.

“There are rules which are caught up in the Public Service Act and a minister can’t be involved or engaged in docking anybody’s pay. So I am not aware of it,” he emphasized. 

22 Responses to Legal showdown

  1. Saga Boy June 27, 2017 at 11:03 pm

    The day the court rules that sticking workers must be paid will be the beginung to total chaos in this society. One cannot withdraw their services and then expect to be paid. It is wrong and immoral.

    • Leroy June 28, 2017 at 8:30 am

      Agreed somewhat however, it depends on the law as written sir, and if the law says that a permanent secretary is not authorized to dock pay due to strike or walk off the job then thats the ruling, what needs to be done now is an examination of the law in court, otherwise we await the courts and agree with you.

  2. Saga Boy June 27, 2017 at 11:04 pm

    That should have read “striking workers”

  3. E Jerome Davis
    E Jerome Davis June 27, 2017 at 11:12 pm

    Show BUT the way.

  4. Che Anika Percell
    Che Anika Percell June 28, 2017 at 12:03 am

    Sabotager and sabotageress
    Cawmere and ministry
    Bitter and political
    Idiot and wicked

  5. Ras June 28, 2017 at 12:09 am

    Did not work but want to be paid
    Not in 2017
    No work no pay

  6. Kiki D June 28, 2017 at 2:18 am

    I work in the civil service in the UK. If I strike I don’t get paid!!! It should not be no different for the teachers who decide to strike in Bim. The union I am with have a fund where members can apply for help, this is something that the BUT can set up if they have not done so already.

  7. Alex Alleyne June 28, 2017 at 3:46 am

    2 jokers , big time. I will bet the court fees ain’t coming out their pockets.
    Stop “showboating” and get serious about your members.
    Remove the POLITICS.
    Looking forward to your action(s) if there is a change in Political leadership come voting time.

  8. harry turnover June 28, 2017 at 6:24 am

    Should have been settled years ago. As far as I am concerned an EMPLOYEE has the right to strike but the EMPLOYER also has the right not to pay anyone for time away from work either.
    As far as Union reps are concerned a minimum amount of time should be allowed for Union Business …outside of that time do it at ones’ own expense.

    • Ruth Afolabi June 28, 2017 at 2:25 pm

      Is that what the contract says? There must be a contract.

      The Union’s negotiates with employer the right of employees to strike. It is the only bargaining chip that moves management.

      PAY THOSE TEACHERS. Bargain in good faith!!!!

  9. Ernesta Catlyn June 28, 2017 at 7:06 am

    Focus on the point: A Permanent Secretary cannot advise Secretary Treasurers to dock teachers’ pay. The Permanent Secretary is not the teachers’ employer; and Secretary Treasurers need training. You do not have to abey any instructions that break the law,

    I am disappointed with June – I hope she is not being influenced – stick to your principles girl. Do what is right. Do not let two persons who in their time did the same thing and their salaries were not docked influence your actions.

    Let them put their signature on the letter to dock salaries.

  10. Roger Headley June 28, 2017 at 7:14 am

    Ronald Jones, Karen Best and Harry Husbands trying to break the Unions’ back. Well I never – only in BIM. We have been reduced to a Banana Republic. The problem is that they all run away from discourse because they are so poor at it and to think that they were teachers. Then you make them Ministry of Education officials and then wonder why the state of our education is so weak.

    • Carson C Cadogan June 28, 2017 at 8:31 am

      Tell me Roger, when Margaret Thatcher was forced to break the back of the British Trade Unions due to the fact that they had reached nuisance status, “….was it only in Britain”, did she “reduced Britain to a Banana Republic”?

  11. Carson C Cadogan June 28, 2017 at 8:26 am

    Teachers are supposed to be bright people. But they are not acting very bright these days.

    A simple thing is escaping them.

    No work, no pay.

    Why is that so difficult to understand?

  12. Carson C Cadogan June 28, 2017 at 8:34 am

    I really don’t see where the problem is.

    The Teachers Union called them out off their jobs, then the Teachers Union should pay them.

    Oh yeah!! The Teachers Union strike fund is EMPTY. Now how did that happen?

  13. Alex Alleyne June 28, 2017 at 9:43 am

    You call a strike, YOU PAY the one’s that come out. You must not call out your members “willy-nilly” playing politics and trying to disrupt the Country and then looking for payment.
    This new bunch of Union leaders don’t have a clue. Should go sit in a class room and take lessons.

  14. Sherlock Holmes. June 28, 2017 at 9:54 am

    Resistance to these two tyrants is obedience to God.

  15. joan Worrell June 28, 2017 at 10:23 am

    Hard ears yuh wun hear, hard ears yuh gun feel. That is what my mother rang in my ears each time she cut my backside. When these people big-fashionly called out workers to attend a meeting, they were warned of the consequences i.e no work, no pay. ILO convention says that the employer is free to deduct part of their wages for the time that they were away from their work places. Is BSTU a member of the I.L.O

    The following is copied from the Association of Teachers and
    Lecturers Union (ATLU) U.K Website

    Employers facing industrial action by staff can respond with a number of penalties, ranging from deduction of salaries through to dismissal in the most serious cases. Fortunately the law changed in 2000 to give employees some
    protection from dismissals as long as their action is official and lawful. However employees who are thinking about taking part, need to be aware that they may face penalties.

    Deduction of Salaries
    In order to be paid an employee must either perform all of his or her duties, or show that he or she is willing to do so.
    The most commonly applied penalty for industrial action is partial or total deductions from pay. By law, wages and salaries are worked out by the day so for a one day strike, the employer can withhold a day’s salary. For teachers working in maintained schools, the National Conditions of service ( The Burgundy Book) has traditionally and helpfully said that any deductions of a day’s salary must be worked out at 1/365 of the annual figure. For other staff, the proper figure is not clearly set out. If the industrial action involves and employee refusing to do certain duties rather than striking, the employer is entitled to make a partial deduction form his or her pay. No figure is set out for the calculation, and where cases have gone to court, judges have been prepared to approve the employers own assessment of lost services. Salary deductions have a significant effect on pension benefits. If an employee is absent for a day because her or she is taking strike action, he or she will lose that day’s pensionable service. Where absences arise in fractions of days ( for example from half day strikes) maintained employers normally combine those part days into whole days when working out the loss of pensionable service ( rounding down to the nearest whole numbers)

  16. Bobo June 28, 2017 at 11:43 am

    Mr C Cadogan your comments true as John 3- 16

    Ms Redman and the Barbados teachers –No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in your work or life –it is the understanding and appreciation of wise thoughts which count.

  17. Carson C Cadogan June 28, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    This woman is a real joke.

    She called off the Teachers from their work on many occasions to walk up and down like idiots as she tries vigorously to support the crooked Barbados Labour Party.

    When the employer, who is not without options, docks their pay as the employer should , she is crying crocodile tears.

    But here is the icing on the cake of this ridiculous woman, since her Teacher Union called the teachers off their jobs and her Teacher Union ought to be paying them , not a single cent are they getting from her. Instead she is paying Barbados Labour Party high price Lawyers tens of thousands of Teacher Union’s dollars to lodge a case in Court.

    These Trade Union “Leaders” heads cant be very good.

  18. Milli Watt June 28, 2017 at 8:14 pm

    now if I going court to have matters like this settled then why am I paying union dues………suspect these unions unwittingly going toward an industrial court. becareful what you wish for you just might get it

  19. Saga Boy June 28, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    Is it true that Morris is being transferred to Queens College?


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