Union to hold meeting over work to rule

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  • Shannon James, president of the Bermuda Union of Teachers (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

    Shannon James, president of the Bermuda Union of Teachers (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Bermuda Union of Teachers is due to hold a general members’ meeting to discuss whether teachers will work to rule at the start of the school term over unresolved matters.

The union voted to work to rule in June, claiming the Public Service Negotiating Team formed under the One Bermuda Alliance had gone back on its word. They reached out at the time to then education minister Cole Simons and Michael Dunkley, the former premier, but were referred back to the PSNT.

The union also voted unanimously to give “notice of action” at any time the union executive decided.

The BUT is concerned about scale posts, the speciality subjects that teachers at all education levels are responsible for in addition to their normal teaching duties; the workload of deputy principals at primary level given extra teaching responsibilities; and the wording of the preamble of the collective bargaining agreement, which the union would like to have included “the delivery of modern and relevant education”.

It is understood that Shannon James, the president of the BUT, has met with an education representative since the new Progressive Labour Party administration came to power but no resolution has yet been reached.

However, general secretary to the union, Mike Charles, has said there is still time to come to an agreement before the first day of term in two weeks.

Mr Charles said: “We are hoping to be able to resolve something soon because school starts in a week.

“The new government is on a tight schedule and has had a very brief time to get together. We are still hopeful. We have scheduled a meeting for next Friday to bring our members up to date. They voted unanimously to work to rule and they are the only ones that can remove it.

“We have to inform them of where we are at this point — as of today [yesterday] that is no further than the last meeting in June. It could happen overnight. We still have tomorrow and next week, so we hold out hope that something can be done.”

Leonard Santucci, chairman of the board at CedarBridge Academy, said he believed a resolution could be met and that the only way to avoid “distraction and destruction” of the teaching/learning process is to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible.

Dr Santucci said: “I have every confidence in the ability of the minister to provide the leadership necessary to address these outstanding matters.

“At the beginning of a new school year, we need teachers in classes teaching, and we need students in classes learning. Every minute lost in the teaching/learning process is to the detriment of both the student and the long-term development of the country.

“At this time, we need cool and calm heads to prevail and the work to rule is a longstanding union process. The resolution can only be found at the bargaining table. The sooner we get there the better.”

Asked whether working to contracted hours only would have much impact on the running of Bermuda’s 38 public schools, Dr Santucci said: “Because it will be a distraction, it will have destructive potential. I believe in locking folk in until the resolution is found. If you have to work through the midnight hour, work through the midnight hour, but let’s get the school year off to a constructive start devoid of all these distractions.”

This newspaper reached out to the Ministry of Education for comment, but did not receive a response by the time of going to print.

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Published Aug 25, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Aug 24, 2017 at 11:48 pm)

Union to hold meeting over work to rule

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