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Covid test schedule for teachers extended after BUT tells members to ignore Government instructions

The Bermuda Union of Teachers has clashed with the Government over its return to school Covid-19 test plan (File image)

The Government has extended its back to school Covid-19 test schedule for teachers by two days.

The move came after the Bermuda Union of Teachers yesterday told its members not to use the Christmas break to get tested or to complete any work-related tasks.

The Government wanted teachers to test on January 1 but the union said that it wanted its members to be able to test on January 4, when they were scheduled to return to work.

It was unclear if the BUT was satisfied with the extension as the new schedule ends on January 3, a day before teachers return to work.

The union earlier claimed that having to test over the Christmas holiday infringed on the rights of its members.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said: “The Department of Education initially announced that all teachers and staff will test only on Saturday, January 1, 2022. However, the testing schedule for teachers and staff has now been expanded to include Sunday, January 2, and Monday, January 3.”

The spokeswoman did not say if the move was in response to action taken by the BUT.

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, added: “We are working hard to ensure schools are open for our students on January 5 and understand the shared sacrifice we all have to make.

“It is hoped these additional days will provide adequate options for staff.”

The BUT did not respond to questions on if it would continue with its planned industrial action.

The education department earlier said that staff and pupils had to have a clear PCR test inside three days before they returned to the classroom.

Tests for teachers and staff were being offered at the Bermuda College cafeteria from 10am to 3pm and at the Bull’s Head car park in Hamilton from 2pm to 4pm on January 1.

A ministry spokeswoman said at the time that there was potential for staff testing to be arranged before noon on January 3 if needed.

Teacher and school staff Covid-19 testing schedule

January 1, 2022:

Bermuda College cafeteria 10am to 3pm

Bull’s Head car park from 2pm to 4pm

January 2, 2022:

Bermuda College cafeteria 10am to 4pm

Bull’s Head Car Park 12pm to 3pm

January 3, 2022:

Bermuda College cafeteria 10am to 12.30pm

The Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory has set up two links to book a return to school test appointment – one for teachers and staff at https://schoolstaff.resqwest.com/ and another for pupils at https://schools.resqwest.com/.

The BUT called an emergency meeting to discuss concerns about teaching staff being forced to test in their own time and proposed a schedule that was “in line with” the union’s collective bargaining agreement.

The union said that it offered its services in support of a revised test regime where teachers could be tested on January 4 but said that the Government “did not engage”.

A union spokesman said before the Government offered an extension: “We are calling members to stand in solidarity and not fulfil any demands by the Department of Education during the Christmas break.

“Do not attend the January 1, 2022, testing site, do not interrupt your family time to answer any e-mails, calls or perform any tasks requested by the Department of Education.”

The spokesman added: “This union shared with the ministry and Department of Education that we are willing to provide additional administrative assistance and resources to ensure testing could occur on January 4, with results processed for the next day.

“All professional development for January 4 should remain remote, as is custom and practice since the beginning of the pandemic.

“Neither the department nor the Ministry of Education engaged the union in creating a pre-return to school testing schedule.

“Our proposal for staff testing on January 4, which allows results to be returned for January 5, does not impact teaching and learning.

“We are also aware that the school principals’ recommendations for the pretesting schedule were denied.

“Unfortunately, the department and the Ministry of Education have missed another opportunity to collaborate with stakeholders … no teacher is obligated to perform any work-related duties before January 4, 2022.

“Additionally, no teacher is to be penalised for not submitting to any demands of the Department of Education outside of paid working hours – including preparing packets, downloading of workshop material or attendance to mandatory pre-entry testing.”

The spokesman said that, with the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the best course of action was for staff to be tested on January 4, which would provide "more reliable, more secure data“.

He added that taking the test on January 1 for pupils’ return on January 5 would give “a false sense of security”.

The spokesman said: “It is important to note that this union supports the efforts of all stakeholders in their attempts to keep our schools safe as we are still amid an active pandemic.

“However, we will not support the expectation that our members give up two to three hours on their holiday when there are other viable solutions readily available.”

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Published December 21, 2021 at 7:57 am (Updated December 21, 2021 at 5:30 pm)

Covid test schedule for teachers extended after BUT tells members to ignore Government instructions

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