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Judge Yet To Rule On Docking Teachers’ Wages

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BUT president Belinda Wilson.

By NICO SCAVELLA

Tribune Staff Reporter

nscavella@tribunemedia.net

A Supreme Court judge is mulling over whether to order the government to stop cutting the salaries of teachers the Ministry of Education is embroiled in a dispute with over its alleged failure to resolve ongoing issues at two public schools.

Within the next week, Justice Bernard Turner is expected to rule on whether he will prohibit the government from docking the wages of teachers employed at both the Carlton Francis Primary and CH Reeves Junior High Schools.

It is the latest in the Bahamas Union of Teachers’ (BUT) ongoing standoff with the government concerning their unaddressed complaints about lingering health, safety and other concerns plaguing the two institutions.

For weeks, teachers at CH Reeves have been protesting against the “unsanitary” conditions on that campus, citing the presence of mold as one of the key concerns. And concerning Carlton Francis Primary, BUT president Belinda Wilson previously claimed that for eight weeks to date, teachers reported to work only to be “locked out” of the gate.

And in both instances, the salaries of teachers at both schools were cut, Mrs Wilson said previously.

Meanwhile, the government has accused some teachers employed at Carlton Francis Primary in particular of withdrawing their labour.

In September, the Ministry of Education said it was “disheartened” by the fact that a number of teachers from the school had “withdrawn from their duties” over those few days.

“This defiant behaviour places our students at a grave disadvantage, depriving them of the quality time and education which they rightfully deserve,” the ministry said at the time.

“As such, the ministry’s paramount objective is to ensure that the education and safety of our students are not compromised. Accordingly, the public can be assured that Ministry officials are working in earnest to resolve the matter.”

However, Mr Parker told reporters on Monday that rather than “engaging substantively with the union”, the government via the MOE has “determined to obstruct” the union in its bid to have the outstanding matters remediated.

That antagonism, Mr Parker said, has materialized in the government filing an application before the Supreme Court in a bid to have the teachers to “go back to work without the due process that is required of them by the CBA and the (Industrial Relations Act).”

“So the irony is that now they are saying that we haven’t complied when in fact, as has been demonstrated in the public forum, they have not allowed us to do that which is necessary to verify that, for example CH Reeves is safe for teachers and students to return,” Mr Parker said at the time.

The Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT), via its attorney Kahlil Parker, is now seeking to have the government prevented from “coding and cutting” the salaries of teachers at the two schools, while the government, via the Office of the Attorney General, is seeking to have the teachers compelled to return to work.

Additionally, the BUT wants the court to compel the government to comply with its collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the union and agree to a contingency plan to resolve the “disturbances”.

The factual issues that led to both parties filing their respective applications will be determined at a later date.

Yesterday, Mrs Wilson expressed some satisfaction that the matter is progressing towards some sort of conclusion.

“I’m happy that we had an opportunity to get justice for our teachers,” she said. “We look forward to the ruling in short order.”

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