After several weeks of locking horns with government negotiators, officials of EI affiliate the Bahamas Union of Teachers have instructed public school teachers to go on "work to rule" and threatened that more serious action could follow.
BUT President Ida Poitier-Turnquest said teachers will work from 9am to 3pm only; a move likely to impact extracurricular activities. She explained that the latest industrial action was taken after the "slap in the face" proposal the government handed the union. "We had a general meeting for all teachers in New Providence to give them an update on the new wage proposal that the government presented to us on Monday," Mrs. Poitier-Turnquest said. "The teachers rejected it again because it is the same old tired proposal that they gave to us last year." The government is keen to implement a high performance evaluation system, which would pay teachers raises based on their level of performance. But union officials have said repeatedly that under no circumstances would they accept a merit pay system. The B.U.T. is demanding a $4,000 lump sum payment for each teacher, which would be made in two instalments of $2,000. The union is also asking for a $12,000 raise for each teacher, which would cover the period January 2006 to June 2008. While the union is still demanding that other industrial matters be addressed as part of the agreement, government negotiators have indicated that the government is only prepared to negotiate wages. In a recent statement the government said, "The presentation of the salary proposal is in keeping with the government’s commitment to negotiate in good faith…The legal advice received by the government has confirmed that the 1965 contract between the government and BUT titled a recognition agreement only affords the BUT the right to an agreement limited to salaries. "The submission of the salary proposal is consistent with past practice and policy of conducting salary negotiations with all public sector unions, including the BUT." But the union president is refuting that claim. "The government is saying that [it] can only bargain with us on salaries and we say according to our recognition agreement of 1965 we can bargain and negotiate for remuneration, tenure, conditions of service and all allied matters and that is law," Mrs. Poitier-Turnquest said.