Barbados teachers wildcat strike against pay docking

Photo by Gregory Waldron from nationnews.com

Teachers at the Alexandra School in Barbados launched a wildcat strike after bosses attempted to deduct a day's pay for their attendance at a union event.

Amanda Lynch-Foster reported on nationnews.com that teachers, saying they were "fed up" with the behaviour of principal Jeffrey Broomes, took industrial action yesterday morning.

Nine teachers laid down their chalk and took up placards of protest shortly before classes were scheduled to start in a wildcat strike which lasted over two hours. They were later joined by several other members of staff.

The catalyst for the action, according to Barbados Secondary Teachers' Union (BSTU) shop stewards Gail Streete-Jules and Margo Clarke, was a letter sent by Broomes to a dozen of their number regarding their attendance on Teachers' Professional Day last month.

The letter referred to his request that teachers attending workshops hosted by the BSTU provide "verification of their attendance at the union's function".

It further went on to state that as they had not done so, they had been marked absent from duty for that day. This will result in a loss of pay for that day, and the teachers called for the letter to be withdrawn.

However, Broomes stated that he "stood by the letter", asserting that it was not the first time he had asked for such verification of attendance at an event and had "never had an issue with it before".

According to the protesting teachers, this issue was "the last straw", as they charged that since Broomes became principal in 2002 there had been an unwelcome atmosphere, resulting in a decline in morale.

"The school has undergone a transformation, a downward trend," stated Clarke, who is also head of the English Department.

Broomes responded that this was "news to me" and declared that if any staff members did have issues with him, they were free to "invoke grievance procedure".

After a brief initial meeting with president of the BSTU, Mary Redman, the teachers agreed to return to classes pending a second meeting between their union delegates and the principal, where their list of grievances would be discussed.

However, according to Redman, this second meeting did not take place yesterday, despite an assurance from Broomes that he would meet with them after the union representatives had conferred further.

"It is the union's regret that both the principal and the chairman of the board allegedly went off to a meeting at the end of our meeting without seeing us officially and setting a time and date for future discussion," said Redman.

She said the BSTU would be meeting with the teachers at Alexandra on Monday during their lunch break "to inform them of developments that might have occurred in the meantime".

Redman also gave the assurance that classes would not be disrupted by industrial action on Monday morning.