BUT, Education Ministry in 'day off' dispute
FN News Editor
No matter what decision the Ministry of Labour makes regarding The Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT)'s trade dispute against the Ministry of Education, according to the union president, the teachers will celebrate World Teachers' Day as planned today.
"The union has used its financial resources and the teachers have used their resources and we intend to go ahead with the plans that we have made throughout The Bahamas, BUT President Belinda Wilson told The Freeport News Thursday evening while giving an update on the outcome of the dispute.
Wilson pointed out that the union and teachers have been planning for this day for months now as pep rallies, prayer breakfasts, luncheons and even a grill out are set and guest speakers have been confirmed on some islands for the big day.
So, when she learned Monday via a member of the ministry's circular signed by Director of Education Lionel Sands regarding a half day celebration, which, according to the union president, is a breach of the collective bargaining agreement, the union filed a dispute.
Wilson said she never received a copy of the circular.
The dispute, which cited a breach of the agreement, was filed with the Ministry of Labour on Wednesday, but Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald on Thursday said he was taken aback and disappointed with the BUT's position.
He said as far as he was aware, there is no breach with regard to the Director or Ministry of Education.
According to the minister, the intent was to have the morning session be used to educate the kids with regard to the importance of the teachers and their contribution.
The afternoon, Minister Fitzgerald said, would be free for the teachers to do as they wished.
Director of Labour Harcourt Brown met with executives from the union and ministry Thursday afternoon and, according to Wilson, pointed out to the ministry the breach of the agreement.
Brown was expected to prepare a report for Minister of Labour, Shane Gibson.
"We await a public announcement from the minister," Wilson said. "But as far as we are aware and concerned, the teachers will have a full day off tomorrow.
"I can guarantee you that our teachers are going to be enjoying the day tomorrow. Tomorrow is World Teachers' Day throughout the world, we are part of Education International, which is 182 countries and we have 30 million members throughout the world," said Wilson.
This year's theme is, "Take A Stand for Teachers" and, Wilson pointed out yesterday that the BUT did just that.
"We want the employer to note that the collective bargaining agreement is a binding document on both us and them."
The president noted that in 27.2 of the agreement, the union had requested the prime minister make a proclamation; teachers be honored and recognized at Government House; a joint press release from the ministry and the union, but neither have been done.
The union insists that teachers should not organize an assembly to honor themselves.
Wilson said that the 4,000 teachers have had the day off the previous five years and there is a reasonable expectation that today will be no different.
"The last five years we have had World Teachers' Day off, however, the union has been celebrating the teachers. But we're saying this year that the employer should celebrate us, the teachers," she said.
Additionally, the BUT chief said, no government or employer can unilaterally change the terms and conditions of an agreement and, if the intent was to do anything to the contrary, there should have been consultation.
Up to press time, The Freeport News was unable to reach Ministers Fitzgerald or Gibson for comment regarding the meeting.
© 2012 The Freeport News