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The Union's Response to Statement made on Brass Tacks by Chief Education Officer on 14th November, 2006

Listen to the CEO's comments on VOB's Brass Tacks (November 14th, 2006)

First and foremost The Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union has never and will never condone persons absenting themselves from work on Teachers’ Professional Day, thus we do agree with statements expressed yesterday by the Chief Education Officer that attendance at work on that day is not optional. Our position is and has always been that once the BSTU has an organized activity planned for that day the members of the BSTU have a choice and it is their right to chose to attend that activity organized activity. In the absence of a planned activity by the Union our members attend the school activity… both sets of activity constituting work on that day. It is useful to consider the following:

  1. Teachers' Professional Day activities planned by the union are sanctioned by the ministry of education.

  2. In giving us the day to hold activities for our members the min of education automatically consents and excuses our members from their original workplace to attend work at the locations and activities pre-arranged bythe bstu and about which they (the Ministry officials) have they have been fully apprised

  3. The members of the bstu have the undisputed right to attend the union-organised activities.

  4. The bstu makes the list of persons attending their organised events available to the principlas of the relevant schools well berofe any of their planned events.

  5. To the best of this writer's knowledge, none of the island's unions (such as the BSTU, BUT and BWU) are in the habit of furnishing their members with attendance slips in order verify their presence at union-organised events.

  6. The bstu has a procedure to follow to accquire information on those persons attending their events; this procedure is simple: information may be obtained through a simple phone call to the president or general sercretary or via a written request soliciting the this attendance information.

  7. The abovementioned procedure described in (6) has been made known to all relevant parties.

In 1986 after presenting a case for such a day The BSTU was granted a day on which as a Union we could identify, strategize on and address the professional concerns of our members … and to be able to do that as a body. That day was first granted to us in recognition of our 40th anniversary. Our first activity was held as an entirely Union one and both Unions were in attendance at The Combermere school hall where we were addressed by the then Minister of Education, the Hon. Erskine Sandiford.

Since then the union has held organized activities some years and have left schools to plan their own activities during others. For a period of about ten years, because the union was asked to form part of the original Educational Month Planning Committee and we were busy with those activities planning for example, the original Teacher of the Year, the Educational Month Lecture, Church Service and other activities we felt that we could not address the planning of a TPD in the way that we would have wanted and so the schools did their own planning. IT MUST HOWEVER BE NOTED THAT DURING THAT PERIOD, THE OFFICERS OF OUR EXECUTIVE WERE INVOlVED AS PRESENTERS AND PANNELISTS AT MANY SCHOOL-ORGANISED ACTIVITIES, SOME OF THEM TRAVELLING TO MORE THAN ONE SCHOOL ON THAT DAY TO BE PART OF THE PLANNED EVENTS … SO THE UNION REMAINED INVOLVED IN ORGANISED ACTIVITIES AT THAT LEVEL.

During this time frame, however two things happened:

  1. We received numerous complaints from our members at executive meetings and at our AGM’s (and our minutes and Executive Reports can verify this) expressing grave dissatisfaction at the direction that the day was taking and the quality of some school-planned activities and they consistently requested that we "retake the day" and deal with issues that truly reflected THEIR professional concerns of teachers …. Many felt that the purpose and philosophy behind the day was being trivialized as some workplaces were relegating the day to one in which persons could get massages, pedicures, etc as part of the planned activities. The Chief herself did say that they too shared similar concerns and started requesting plans of and reports on the school-organised activities on that day.

  2. Secondly, we became dissatisfied with the organization and operation of the educational month planning process at the Ministry of Education and we withdrew our support for one year initially, went back the following year and then finally withdrew from the committee the year after that.

Given those two facts we felt that we needed to respond to the request of our members, since we shared their concerns about the path the day was taking, to retake the day and revert to a Union –Organized day …. Teachers' Professional Day activities that reflected the professional concerns of our members as they identified them and to allow them the chance, as a large body on that day, to formulate recommendations and strategies to deal with them and, no longer being on the Educational month Planning Committee we now had the time in which to do it in the way that it was intended

Since 2002 we have been holding excellent and successful Union-planned events. These are always done with the prior knowledge and approval of the Ministry of Education which is always given a programme of our planned activities.

Over the years we have had speakers and presenters including the Chief Education officer herself who spoke to us on teachers rights and responsibilities in 2003 ….. she addressed the largest group that we ever had (137 participants). In fact that year at The Lodge School, because of the large number of persons at that school expressing a desire to attend, the school actually held no activity there and instructed staff to attend the Teachers' Professional Day activities at BWU's Solidarity House. The Board of The Lodge and that of the Coleridge and Parry schools even paid for the lunches of their staff that attended. We have had other speakers like Sir Roy Trotman, as we said former Prime Minister Sir Lloyd Sandiford … this year the Minister of Labour Hon. Rawle Eastmond really piqued the interest and imaginations of our members when examined the possibility of the establishment of a teaching Service Commisission, we also had persons from CXC addressing concerns surrounding those examinations at both the CSEC and CPAE levels, as well as the burning issue of remuneration for the making of SBA. Mrs. Marguerite Cummins-William discussed the liberalisation of Education and CSME and the free movement of teachers. Our activity was so successful that it continued until just after 4:00pm… so teachers are involved in relevant, developmental, professional activities when they attend union-organised events on Teachers' Professional Day.

You have heard evidence of previous co-operation from the Ministry of Education and from principals and boards of Managements for previous Union-planned activities on Teachers' Professional Day. This Union has not operated any differently this year from previous years either in its planning, organization or execution of the days’ activities.

It is informative to note what the Chief Education officer said at the end of her discussion yesterday and I quote “If you said that you are going to a Union activity on that particular date then you either indicate before you go in writing that that is where you will be ….. but if you have not turned up at the union activity or at the school activity on Friday, and Teachers' Professional Day is always a Friday, then you must report to the Principal on the Monday…” . We are in concert on this and we think that this clarifies the matter as the Ministry’s stand on the issue. Prior notice and attendance at one or other event. In the case of absence follow established procedure …. You are however NOT absent of you attend the Union-Organized event and having attended that there is no need to report anything further to the principal.

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