The Bermuda Union of Teachers has condemned what it views as disrespect shown by the government-led public service negotiating team for walking back its agreement reached with union to advance quality education in the country.
In January 2017, the Bermuda Union of Teachers (BUT) started the negotiation process with the public service negotiating team (PSNT) for a collective bargaining agreement. The PSNT is comprised of three negotiations experts acting as mediators between the education unions and the Government.
Whilst the union was aggrieved at what it perceived as a lack of preparedness by the PSNT, the two sides did agree on the issues of deputy principals and “scale-posts” for teachers.
In relation to deputy principals, the Education ministry proposed to make primary school deputy principals non-teaching, and not full-time teachers as is the situation now. As full-time teachers, deputy principals are unable to carry out their additional duties properly – or at all. Both sides agreed to the need to move deputy principals out of the classroom.
“Scale-posts” for teachers
Both sides also agreed on the issue of “scale-posts” for teachers. Scale posts involve extra responsibilities for teachers in addition to their teaching post. These positions have been rolled over for the past two years whereas, in fact, the positions should be advertised every three years.
Negotiations have been suspended, however, due to the upcoming general elections on 18 July to elect members to the House of Assembly. In preparation for the jointly agreed suspension, the BUT asked for the agreements to date to be put in writing.
The President of BUT, Shannon James, said the union was given the original “scale-post” contracts, not the newly agreed one. And the union says they were also told that, while the education ministry “philosophically” agreed with non-teaching deputy principals, it was not prepared to make any changes to the current positions.
“They walked away from the table and rolled back what was agreed on, attempting to make all that had been agreed on null and void,” James said.
Honour in negotiations
During negotiations, both parties entered the process “on the basic premise of your word being your bond, and trying to reach win-win solutions”, stressed James, noting that “we cannot proceed if this government is voted back in as we cannot trust their word”.
He added that the BUT is exploring a legal approach to this situation, using the meeting documents and minutes as proof. The union is now hesitant about returning to the negotiations process and mistrusts the PSNT, he said.