Richards: place children first

  • Make a commitment to our children: Kalmar Richards (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

    Make a commitment to our children: Kalmar Richards (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Members of the island’s teachers union have breached their collective bargaining agreement five times this school year, the education commissioner claimed today.

Kalmar Richards said the Bermuda Union of Teachers “must place children first when taking action and they must also be willing to have concerns addressed under the conditions that teaching, learning and services do not stop for our children”.

She called on the union to “make a commitment to our students and parents, and to publicly give them the reassurance that no more school days will be lost when the Department of Education and the BUT members work to resolve any issues that may arise”.

She added: “I can assure our parents that the Department of Education team will commit to meeting with teachers and the BUT after school hours whenever there are concerns and/or issues to be resolved.”

The statement comes a day after the BUT slammed the Department of Education for its handling the concerns of its members. The union said on Tuesday that two meetings set to take place that day had been postponed at the last minute.

The BUT added in a statement: “These are examples of the lack of consistency and commitment practised by the Department of Education in its dealings with the BUT in regard to the concerns of teachers.

“This dismissive attitude has resulted in an array of unresolved issues, which includes the Dellwood Middle School situation, the Elliot Primary School situation, the longstanding issues with our paraeducators and educational therapist assistants, and various other pressing concerns this union needs to have urgently and adequately addressed by the Department of Education.”

However, Ms Richards said that no grievance forms had been submitted to the Department of Education by staff at either Dellwood, in Pembroke, or Elliot, in Devonshire.

She added: “Because the actions taken by staff at these schools this week Monday and Tuesday did not follow the procedure outlined in the collective bargaining agreement, the Department of Education has involved the Labour Office.”

Ms Richards said the step was needed “as there has been three previous instances since the start of the school year when BUT members have not followed the grievance procedures”.

She added: “This week now makes for a total of five times when the BUT membership has breached their collective bargaining agreement.”

Ms Richards said that the Labour Office had contacted the union and the Department of Education to request a meeting.

She added: “The department looks forward to meeting with the BUT to discuss these and other issues.”

Ms Richards said that pupils suffered when school instruction was “intentionally disrupted”.

She added: “Every educator, whether they be at the Department of Education or in the classroom, works for and on behalf of students.

“When there are issues to be resolved, the teaching, learning and educational services must not stop for our children.

“The position of looking to resolve any issues after school hours has been shared previously with the BUT executives.”

Mr Richards said that the Department of Education provided service and support to pupils, parents and school staff.

She added: “When there is an individual or collective concern from teachers or staff, the BUT was asked to follow the grievance process outlined in their collective bargaining agreement.

“The agreement sets out the procedure for having concerns addressed by the Department of Education, and the timeframe allocated to do so.”

Dellwood pupils were dismissed early on Monday after teachers took industrial action.

The BUT said the action was triggered by the termination of two substitute teachers who had been contracted to work at the school until March 27.

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Published Feb 20, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Feb 20, 2020 at 7:59 am)

Richards: place children first

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