THE ongoing dispute between teachers from CH Reeves and Carlton Francis schools and the Ministry of Education has taken another unfortunate turn.
The salaries of 75 teachers are being cut. It’s not a move likely to cool the heated tempers in the dispute.
More than that, as the union points out, teachers have had to be working in less than ideal conditions.
Construction work is still going on at CH Reeves Junior High School, says union president Belinda Wilson, with no water in the school for more than three weeks when school opened in September.
It’s not just the teachers that should be angry about that – but every parent and every child attending the school.
Back in July, Minister of Education Jeff Lloyd said confidently that schools would be ready for the start of term. At the time, Mrs Wilson said she was not optimistic. In this column, we said we would see which of them was right and which of them was wrong – and said if the government was wrong, then perhaps they would do well to listen to Mrs Wilson’s suggestions of ways to stop the mad dash to get schools ready each summer.
Two weeks later, Mr Lloyd was describing CH Reeves as one of the schools in the most serious states of disrepair, but that contractors had assured him the schools would be ready by September 2. Again, Mrs Wilson expressed her doubts. Again, she appears to have been right. Strike two for the minister.
And now teachers at CH Reeves, says Mrs Wilson, are having to work in unsanitary and unsafe conditions. Some are having to move from room to room without a classroom of their own, which is of no help to lesson preparations.
Over at Carlton Francis, teachers say they have sent a list of grievances to Mr Lloyd, but it has gone unattended.
For his part, Mr Lloyd says he is “advised” that there are concerns about classroom space at CH Reeves. He is further “advised” that it has been resolved, and that he is further “advised” that teachers are unhappy about having to float from one classroom to the next. It doesn’t sound as if problems have been resolved if teachers are still left without a classroom.
It is good to know that Mr Lloyd listens to advice, though – so here’s a piece of advice for him. Don’t sit behind a desk and wait for others to tell you what the problems are and whether they have been resolved. Get in your ministerial car, drive down to each school and talk to teachers on the ground.
And reconsider reducing the salary of teachers - if they have been forced to work through unsuitable conditions through no fault of their own but because contractors missed a deadline, then they have given more than what was expected of them. They have adapted to the circumstances around them and tried to deliver what is best for the children they teach.
To cut their pay after that is a slap in the face – it’s no wonder the union is prepared to seek legal advice.
When you talk to teachers in the schools that are affected, really listen to what they say is wrong, and ask yourself if they – and their students -– don’t deserve a little better.
Mrs Wilson has been right twice when your advice has been wrong, Mr Lloyd. Don’t make it a third strike.