BUT: 'watching brief' on redundancies over schools shake-up
The teachers’ union is prepared to fight redundancies proposed as part of a major shake-up of the schools system, the organisation’s general secretary has said.
Mike Charles, the general secretary of the Bermuda Union of Teachers said: “We have not been approached by anyone in government about any redundancies but our stance is that we do not expect our members to be disadvantaged in any way.
“Until the government approaches us on that matter we will keep a watching brief. We speak to them on a regular basis - it’s not that we aren’t speaking.
“If there are going to be redundancies, we would ask where, how and why? Unless you have a plan, you can’t talk about what might be.”
Mr Charles said that the pupil to teacher ratio had to be maintained unless the government planned to do something radically different.
He added: “We never want to see anyone lose their job – before any redundancies there has to be consultation.”
Mr Charles was speaking after the Government said it expected a reduction in staff numbers across the education system as part of its education reform proposals which includes the closure of nine primary schools.
A consultation document released by the Government last December said: “As the proposals necessitate new and diverse programmes to meet the needs of all students, there will also be new dynamic roles created that will need to be filled.
“We also expect that some staff numbers will change through attrition, via retirement or persons who take up other opportunities within or outside of the Bermuda public school system.
“Staffing changes, including the possibility of redundancies, are covered by the collective bargaining agreements of each union that represents staff of the Bermuda public school system.
“However, the Ministry would like to reiterate that processes regarding staffing will be fair and transparent.”
The plan would see a new primary school built in Devonshire, the phasing out of middle schools and the introduction of signature schools including one for those with “exceptionalities” and one for “alternative education”.
Mr Charles said that BUT members had told him they were worried about their futures.
He added: “Teachers have expressed concerns about it. All we can do is listen to their concerns and encourage them to wait and see what will happen.
“How do you plan for something when you don’t know what is coming? It is all talk right now. They haven’t turned one shovelful of earth.”
Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, insisted that efforts would be made to give staff training and new roles would be created that could help to limit job cuts.
He said: “We are committed to ensuring the professional development that educators need to be successful in this new system will be provided.
“There will be every opportunity for people to do what they need to do, to remain in the system.
“Opportunities will exist and there will be not only opportunities for professional development, but opportunities for different roles.”