Ronald Jones could talk because he went on leave after the 30-love. He could talk because he has a fat pension as a former minister in Cabinet. He may not remember but he was the minister who saw teachers’ leave stopped in 2014 in the first place.
“The BSTU raised the matter at the Subcommittee of the Social Partnership on 25th August, 2017 and asked that the Minister of Labour use her good office to exert influence towards getting the Grievance heard. Government Minister, the Hon. Donville Inniss, while there expressed his horror at the matter, and stated his concern that if the BSTU were forced to take action, the fault would lie with the recalcitrance of the senior officers” – BSTU Press Release 10/09/2017
“Don’t you shut down this school system because you feel your child ain’t get what you want, because I going to then do what I have to do to ensure my child gets what he rightfully deserves in this country, which is a sound education” – Nation newspaper 11/09/2017
The above are extracts from a BSTU press release on a break in the grievance procedure which was shared on the weekend, the other a quote from the local press which covered Minister Donville Inniss addressing a DLP constituency meeting on the weekend as well.
If we accept that the report from the BSTU is accurate then clearly Minister Donville Inniss played politics with a serious issue on by casting a slur on the character of President of the BSTU Mary-Anne Redman. The dispute between the BSTU and the St. Michael School must be assessed based on the merits of the case and not whether the person at the centre of the matter is related to Redman.
Vere Parris, Principal of Combermere Secondary School
Ronald Jones, Minister of Education
Rolerick Sobers, President of the PTA
The reputation of the Waterford University has taken a big dent in recent months. The inability of the authorities to effectively manage the problems at the school have been well documented and discussed on social media. BU has followed the saga at Combermere Secondary School with interest because many in the BU household have benefited from instruction through the years from dedicated teachers well supported by support staff. It must pain the alumni everywhere to be witnessing the diminution of the Cawmere ethos that has been the envy of many.
It has become obvious to BU based on certain knowledge that at the root of the problem is weak leadership at the school. We offer no apology to anyone by defining the weakness in leadership as Principal Vere Parris, President of the Parents Teachers Association Rolerick Sobers AND the comatose Combermere Old Scholars Association (COSA). These three important stakeholders have allowed politics and emotional positions to trump effective decision making at the Waterford institution. BU will withhold airing the dirty laundry in public for the moment but we will if the problems at Combermere School are not resolved in short order. There will be no improvement at the school unless Parris is removed, Sobers -who is also is a vice president of the COSA- is removed, AND, the constitutions of the PTA and COSA are amended to deal with term limits and incestuous behaviour.
An example of the politics affecting Combermere School again manifested itself this week. Minister Ronald Jones in response to concerns raised that the putrid smell at Combermere had gotten worse and “students were complaining of sore throat, itchy skin and headaches, which in some cases caused them to leave early”, he summarily dismissed the charge. He explained that the school records did not support. Contrast Minister Jones’ position to that taken by President of the BSTU Mary Redman published in today’s Barbados Advocate: “However, President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU), Mary Anne Redman says that she is in receipt of reports that teachers are experiencing symptoms like before, which she indicated are related to the odour.” – More Combermere Drama.
The BU household will pray that key players like Mary Redman and Ronald Jones engage in constructive dialogue -for the sake of the children. Why in heavens name a simple fact to determine if children and teachers have reported sick at Combermere School as a result of a heightened stench has to be contentious. Here is where the leadership from by the Principal, PTA and COSA will ease some of the tension. So far the BSTU has been vindicated by their position taken on behalf of members. There was a serious environmental problem at the school that the ministry of education vigorously denied for a long time. In fact all agree – including Parliamentary Secretary Harry Husbands who acted for Minister Jones on the walkthrough with the BSTU before the opening of the term – that there is still work to be done to improve the quality of the environment. Why Jones elected to adopt a bombastic and Trumplike position boggles even the average mind.
The issue of the compromised environment at Combermere School compound needs to be solved once and for all. It is time for Cawmerians everywhere to join the ‘fight’.
The BU household states for the record it supports the initiative by government to stoke our pride and industry by celebrating all that we have achieved since 1966. What we do NOT agree with is the government using the 50th Anniversary event as an opportunity to feather the popularity of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) with a general election looming large on the horizon.
It seems an exercise in tomfoolery that the government would engage in all year planning of the 50th Anniversary event and allow the grand finale to be ‘compromised’ by an escalation in the industrial climate in Barbados.
The incestuous relationship the government has with the NUPW (for sure) should be enough to make it aware that the climate is ‘hotting’ up. The government through the Prime Minister and the head of the Personnel Administration Department (PAD) will have to do a better job to convince BU and others that the Akanni McDowall matter does not have some politics in it. Not too long ago a DLP entrenched Derek Alleyne failed in a widely publicised motion to remove McDowall from the presidency of the NUPW.
The Barbados Workers Union (BWU) has entered the fray by issuing a 5 o’clock deadline to government to expire on the 19 November 2016. It claims the government through its agent the PAD has not responded to correspondence sent a month ago. Its General Secretary Toni Moore has threatened that the union is prepared to “bare its teeth” although it prefers a more conciliatory approach to resolving the grievances.
The Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) and the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) have also taken an aggressive position as it relates to the government addressing the matter of compensation for marking School Based Assessment (SBA). The government should take careful note that the SBA grievance is more a concern for the BSTU. The BUT has also signalled that the docking of pay from teacher salaries for attending a meeting a few months ago and the threat to dock the pay of those who attended the meeting yesterday has been placed on the radar. The BUT leadership has determined that the government has resorted to tactics to intimidate labour.
Already there are confirmed reports about the painful process Barbadians returning home have been experiencing to clear Immigration and Customs at the airport. Those of us who have experienced the service delivered by the two departments BEFORE the go-slow know that it was already slow because of the manual inspection methods used by Customs. One can only imagine the agony being experienced by weary Barbadians (travellers) as they clear Immigration and Customs on a daily basis. Let us hope it will not dampen their enthusiasm especially when it comes to spending the US dollars.
Can you imagine we have the ridiculous situation where there is confusion about whether Akanni McDowall has the required qualification for an established post in the civil service? Can you imagine a junior employee with the same qualification as McDowall was recruited to fill the post? Can you imagine McDowall’s contract was terminated 6 weeks before it expired? The NUPW argues YES and the head of PAD say NO. May the lord help this country.
To complicate the issue –add oil to the industrial waters, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has hinted in a statement last week his government may have to introduce legislation to prevent unions from holding the country to ransom. Should we assume from the Prime Minister’s position that the touted social partnership is failing?
The takeaway from this submission is for the government to note that the trade unions are collaborating. A word to the wise should be sufficient. As we write this blog the industrial climate at the airport has deteriorated with a breakdown in wages talks.
By the way, was that Caswell Franklyn of Unity Workers Union sitting next to Toni Moore from Barbados Workers Union the other day?
26th May, 2016
BSTU’s Response to the directive to Secretary Treasurers re Salary Deductions of some BUT members.
It is with great consternation that the BSTU was made aware of the contents of a letter to the various Secretary-Treasurers from the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, dated 6th May, 2016 and captioned Salary Deductions. This correspondence constituted an instruction that the salaries “ of those officers, who attended without permission, the Barbados Union of Teachers Meetings held on April 29th and May 4th 2016, respectively should be proportionately abated for the month of May, 2016.” The authority quoted for such action being based on General Orders section 3.3.2. This section states that “the pay of an officer or employee may be proportionately abated for any part of a day or period of absence from the job without permission or without satisfactory explanation for such absence.” It is my understanding that today, 26th May, 2016 some teachers in the system received pay cheques reflecting one day’s deduction with the second deduction to occur in June, 2016.
Today’s Barbados Advocate Editorial addresses the decision by the Ministry of Education to dock teachers salaries who attended meetings called by the Unions.
Mary-anne Redman, BSTU
Ronald Jones, Minister of Education
The policeman’s lot, the opera composers, Gilbert and Sullivan, assure us in their production, The “Pirates of Penzance”, is “not a happy one”. Members of the Barbados Union of Teachers [BUT], after their travails in recent weeks, might wish to argue that teachers face a similar unhappy predicament. The clincher to this proposition would have come with the recent notification from officials in their parent ministry, Ministry of Education to the Secretary-Treasurers of the respective Boards of Management of those schools to which members of the BUT are attached, that the salaries of those teachers who attended, without permission, meetings of the Union convened in late April and early May, should be proportionately abated for the month of May 2016. The letter claims also that this is notification is in accordance with section 3. 3. 2. of the General Orders of Barbados. (sic).
This measure raises an intriguing point of law, one that has not been the subject matter of a local trial to our best knowledge. And, according to the BUT, it had already sought and obtained legal advice on the matter, which satisfied it that the Ministry “did not have a leg to stand on. In spite of this, we have serious reservations as to whether there will indeed be court action, given the express words of the president of the BUT, Mr Pedro Shepherd, that they were quite willing to pursue the matter up to the level of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff associations of Barbados [CTUSAB] and the Social Partnership, although he did add that the BUT would take the matter “as far as necessary”, if the letter were not withdrawn.
That an employer legally has the right to withhold the wages of an employee for the period that the employee is not ready and willing to work is not in dispute. And while the letter, now in the public domain, referred to a part of the General Orders, a near identical provision has been enacted in paragraph 15 (1) of the Second Schedule (the Code of Conduct and Ethics), to the Public Service Act 2007 (as amended).
According to this-
“Officers who are absent from duty without permission, except in the opinion of the Permanent Secretary or Head of Department the absence is due to illness or other unavoidable circumstances, are in breach of this Code, and their pay may be reduced appropriately by the Permanent Secretary or Head of Department to take account of such absence”.
This entitlement of the employer is also reinforced by case law. The BUT’s response to this is that provisions in the Constitution and the Trade Unions Act allow for the holding of these meetings although we understand that any such attendance would be permitted only if permission had been granted or unreasonably withheld in response to an application for leave to do so.
In any event, Mr Shepherd argues, at least 99 % of those attending would have been granted permission by their principals or those in charge of the school.
This appears to us to be the crux of the issue for now. Whether permission was granted or not may easily be established on the evidence. So long as it was granted, there should be no abatement of salaries. The official letter concedes as much.
Awe envisage a further dispute, however, in respect of the assessment of the proportionate abatement where this is justified. Does a teacher’s salary accrue by the minute, the hour or by the day? What if he or she attends school for the greater part of the day, not having been previously warned that part performance would be unacceptable.
ALL THESE YEARS I have been labouring under the belief that slavery had been abolished in Barbados. Now I am not so sure, if I am to be guided by the legal opinion from the Solicitor General’s Office, which is reported to have said that marking School-Based Assessments (SBAs) forms part of the duties of a teacher.
During slavery, the master could and did lend out his slaves to work at other properties. Those slaves did so without pay and without the right to say no. I might be accused of being simplistic, but to my mind the legal opinion is saying that teachers can be hired by the Public Service Commission, and lent out to the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC), in circumstances where teachers do not have the right to say no and without pay to boot.
Teachers are appointed in accordance with Section 94 of the Constitution. Their terms and conditions of service can be found scattered among: the Education Act and its regulations; the Public Service Act; the General Orders for the Public Service; and the Public Service Regulations. Unless I have missed something, there is nothing in any of those documents that allows the Government to lend out teachers, without their consent, to CXC or anyone else.
The Barbados Secondary Teachers Union argues that marking SBAs is not part of the duties of a teacher, while the Ministry of Education is insisting that the teachers have been marking the SBAs all along, which constitute custom and practice and as a result, teachers are duty-bound to continue. In my view, the teachers have right on their side but they are not convincingly putting their case. On the other hand, the Ministry of Education, aided and abetted by the Solicitor General’s Chambers, is plainly wrong.
In accordance with their terms and conditions of service, teachers can be assigned to work at any Government school in Barbados, as we saw at the conclusion of the now infamous Alexandra School debacle of a few years ago. Further, they must perform any duty of a teacher as directed by their employer. But therein lies the problem, CXC is not a school in Barbados. It is an independent entity whose duty includes setting examinations and awarding certification based on those examinations.
It goes without saying that CXC must be responsible for marking those exams so that it can award its certification. SBAs are part of the examinations, and that being the case, it must mark its examination papers or put arrangements in place to do so. That is what the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union seems to be saying.
The Ministry of Education’s reliance on custom and practice simply does not make sense for one main reason. It can only reasonably insist if the duty of marking exams was a function of the ministry or one of the organisations under its control. CXC is not part of the teaching service; its functions therefore cannot form part of the duties of teachers in the Public Service of Barbados. It is an independent employer who has been getting away with not paying workers who perform tasks on its behalf for years.
On the other hand, the only saving grace for the Ministry of Education could be that it cannot allow CXC to pay teachers since none of them have ever gotten permission from the Service Commission to undertake other paid employment, as required by paragraph 19 of the Code of Conduct and Ethics. I must admit that it sounds farcical but, as far as I am aware, that is the only basis for refusing to pay teachers for their hard work.
My advice, even though unsolicited, would be that the Ministry of Education should stop being a bully and negotiate with the union; the BSTU should stick to its guns, mind you, I am only referring to this matter; and the Solicitor General’s Chambers need a refresher course in labour law.
Tell them slavery done.
Caswell Franklyn is the General Secretary of Unity Workers Union and a social commentator. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The recent SBA saga has taken centre stage in the educational conversation of Barbados. One might have missed the Minister’s pronouncement of a number of new codes including mobile technology, or the launch of the new school for troubled teens or even the good news coming out of BSSAC, NAPSAC and some schools’ Speech Days.
We’ve heard and seen the BSTU (“supported by the BUT”…whatever that means) make an impassioned plea for their members to not mark SBAs in support of their demand for payments.
From the outset let’s agree on a few things:
It’s the Union’s right to request payment, whether they get it or not.
It’s the Union’s right to take action to “force” discussion or resolution on the matter.
It’s the Union’s right to represent teachers who believe their their workload has become too burdensome, whether it is or not
It’s a Ministry’s responsibility to speak to its employees and/or their representatives proactively and on request
It’s a travesty when issues like this drag on for so long to the detriment of everyone.
The recent impasse by the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) and the regional body of the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) has begged the question…In whose interest are these Union bodies acting?
How can a union and its members take as prisoners the future leaders of this society by abandoning the process and not marking School Based Assessment papers?
The children of this country’s future will be jeopardized…If the issue is one of volume of work that is to be undertaken and the Union is asking for more money. … Will increase money solve the volume of work or will it make the teachers happier this summer ?
The case put on behalf of the Union should not have to see the children of Barbados suffering … I am calling on all parents no matter if your child is at this juncture to condemn the insensitive action of the Union and its leaders…
Children don’t sign cheques and yet they are asked to pay…
Coming in the wake of the classroom sex video BU is looking into another matter at Princess Margaret School. It appears a teacher was beaten by a school boy and fainted from the experience. What is alarming is that other teachers who were present were scared shitless to offer assistance to a fallen comrade.
It is not surprising we are told that the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) has been slow to take action and the BSTU as is the norm is being ignored. Can we expect the Ministry of Education to take action? What about the embattled Minister of Education?
The wonderful sight of teacher and pupil reunited at the Alexandra School – Photo credit Barbados Advocate
He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough – Lao Tzu
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is defined as all “the final goods and services produced within a country in a given period of time”. Can BU draw a parallel and define the well being of a country by the quality of key decisions made by the ‘leaders’ in a given period?
The debate which continues to gain traction in Barbados is about the Alexandra dispute and related issues. It has displaced discussion about the upcoming general election, and significantly, a conversation about the state of the economy. If one were to ask any educated Barbadian what issue should be occupying the attention of the country, the answer should be ‘managing the economy’. It does not mean that all the issues at play in the country should be ignored, just that the exigencies of now require priority planning how we allocate resources.
Tension at the Alexandra School has peaked and troughed since 2005, surely an indictment on the management system with oversight for education. Many problems currently being wrestled by the government have straddled both political parties and different personnel in the public service. What it exposes is a rotten core which drives decision making in Barbados.
Karen Best, former BUT President and current Deputy Chief Education Officer
Minister Jones, visibly shaken and angry, termed the no-show a “gross insult” and the low point of industrial relations practice in the trade union history of Barbados. Mrs Karen Best, president of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT), reportedly said she had never seen anything like it in industrial relations. Her [Best] comments clearly indicate her union will not support the BSTU. For the first time that I can remember, there is a split among five unions – the BSTU and Barbados Workers Union (BWU) on one side, the BUT, BAPPSS and NUPW on the other
It seems to be finally hitting home to Barbadians – especially the political partisans – that the Alexandra School dispute (AX) is not so easy to resolve after all. The Frederick Waterman headed commission of inquiry was suppose to wash away the problem which all have to admit predates this government coming to office.
One view of the AX matter which BU has not put under full scrutiny is the incestuous nature of the relationships of key decision makers and participants in the AX plot. Barbados we know is a small country and there is an inevitability about how personal relationships can shape public perception about how decisions are taken.
Key players in the AX Mess are Principal Jeff Broomes, Minister Ronald Jones, and Deputy Chief Education Officer Karen Best who are ALL products of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT). To complete the BUT connection we should declare that current President of the Barbados Union of Teachers is Pedro Shepherd who recently challenged for the Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) nomination in St. Michael South East.
Of special interest to BU is the recent appointment of Karen Best who has responsibility for schools.
‘Ingredients’ for a cabal you think? It gets better.
Ronald Jordan reacts to his transfer to Alexandra – Image credit Nation
I wonder how many of those teachers, who assiduously canvassed for the Head to be “separated” from the school, thought that they too would be separated, and if they did, why did they fight with such alacrity [eagerness]?…I have only posed a question.
The general idea from the present Government’s perspective was to solve a major problem and this up to a point they have done. The main players are no longer at the school, the school has an opportunity to do what it is mandated to do…teach children and thus move on.
Many of the major participants will never be the force they once were and some at the end of careers, will be remembered for things they would rather forget.
First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me – Pastor Martin Niemoeller
They have come for Jeff Broomes, and as a trade unionist, I must speak out before they come for me. From the outset, let me state that I am not defending Broomes because I think that he is guiltless. In Barbados, everyone, even Jeff Broomes, is innocent until he pleads guilty or guilt is established after a duly constituted body makes that determination after hearing the evidence, and giving the accused the right to be heard. I am therefore concerned that the Public Service Commission (PSC) has taken steps against him, under the guise of a transfer, before it follows the rules in order to establish his guilt or innocence.
The Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) has achieved its goal of separating the Principal from Alexandra School; but they have nothing to rejoice about when you consider the way it was done. I hope that the membership of the union is sensible enough to condemn the method that was adopted by the PSC. BSTU should vociferously disassociate itself from the denial of due process to Mr. Broomes. Even murderers who kill in front of witnesses are given the right to be heard before sentence is pronounced. In essence, he has fewer rights than a murderer.