By Leandra Rolle
WEEKS after the government cut the salaries of 75 teachers at Carlton Francis Primary School and CH Reeves Junior High School, education officials said they have started the process of restoring the salaries of those affected teachers.
The move came days after Supreme Court Justice Bernard Turner ordered the Ministry of Education to restore the teachers’ docked salaries in full.
Speaking to reporters on the matter last Monday, Bahamas Union of Teachers president Belinda Wilson said she was happy with Justice Turner’s ruling.
“It shows that no one is above the law including the Ministry of Education and the government of The Bahamas. So, we look forward to our teachers’ salary being restored, we look forward to them continuing getting their pay,” she said.
In a press statement released on Thursday, education officials noted they are following the rule as issued by the court. But, the ministry also suggested that they are expecting teachers to return to their respective workplaces as ordered by Justice Turner. The order also restrains teachers from contravening certain sections of the Industrial Relations Act by refusing to return to work.
Kahlil Parker, the union's attorney, said while teachers are to report to work, they must be returning to a healthy working environment.
The Bahamas Bar Association president added: “The order is that they are allowed to resume their duties, so we don’t expect barricades, we don’t expect police, we expect teachers to be able to report and resume teaching at Carlton Francis in particular.
“Now the issues at CH Reeves remain outstanding and the government will have to make sure that when the teachers report to work that they are reporting to a safe environment and that the union is allowed to conduct the inspection to certify that issue.
“The Bahamas Union of Teachers has also been restrained from contravening the provisions of the Industrial Relations Act relative to unlawful strikes.”
For some eight weeks, teachers at Carlton Francis Primary have been sitting out from classes, claiming they have been reporting to work only to be “locked out” of the gate. This came after teachers at Carlton Francis participated in series of protests, calling for the removal of the school's sitting principal.
And as it relates to CH Reeves, teachers there have been protesting against the “unsanitary” conditions on that campus, citing the presence of mould as one of the key concerns.
The government’s alleged failure to address the working conditions at these two public schools have led union members to take legal action against the Ministry of Education.
“All we wanted was justice and fair play and all teachers want to do is teach the nation’s children in a safe, healthy, peaceful environment,” Mrs Wilson said.
However, the Ministry of Education maintains that they want to create a peaceful environment for all, where students are placed as the top priority.
“The Ministry of Education wishes to assure the public that it continues to place the highest priority on its primary mission – ensuring that all our students are provided with the quality education to which they are entitled,” officials continued in a statement.