Verbal sparring between trades unions and Barbados government appears headed to the next level with a pay dispute between teachers and the Ministry of Education becoming the most recent spark that threatens to ignite into an inferno.
Seeking to underline several long-simmering grouses, the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union called out its members to a ‘March for Respect’ last week, and amid suggestions from the Ministry of Education that the protesting teachers will not be paid for time off the job, Education Minister, Ronald Jones blankly said over the weekend, “ If you don’t work I can’t see how you can be paid.”
But emboldened by reelection to her post for another one-year term Monday night, BSTU president Mary Redman said, “We intend to write and tell the Ministry of Education not to touch a cent of our money.”
Minister Jones’ argument was that according Barbados’ industrial relations regulations, striking workers will not be paid if the employer is not at fault for their action. But Redman said that the gathering was nothing more than ‘a mobile meeting’ and not a strike, to bring their issues to the public, so teachers must be paid.
Foremost among the grievances of teachers is their unhappiness that for years they have been marking the Caribbean Examinations Council’s School-Based Assessments for students, for which they want extra pay as they see it as added work.
Government has stoutly refused, and the union has ordered its members to stop correcting and submitting the SBAs.
Redman defiantly told teachers Tuesday, “regardless of the threats that you have been seeing and hearing, all members have to stick by our agreement, no correction, no forward submission.”
While the SBA payment issue could drag on for a while longer, matters of disagreement between government and this union may come to a head at the end of the month, depending on whether teachers get their salaries with money missing, purportedly deducted because of last week’s protest.
Though she stopped short of threatening a strike if her members’ pay is shortened at the end of April, explaining that such industrial action is a last resort, Redman said, “we are tired of the talk.”