By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
EDUCATION Minister Jeff Lloyd said his ministry will not attend meetings with Bahamas Union of Teachers President Belinda Wilson or view her as a credible representative of teachers unless she apologises for her conduct and stops behaving in a “disrespectful and insulting” manner.
He also claimed she has cursed at him in WhatsApp messages.
Mr Lloyd’s comments were in a letter he sent on September 23 to Elma Garraway, the chairman of the National Advisory Council on Education. He copied the letter to Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, Labour Minister Dion Foulkes and Labour Director John Pinder.
Mr Lloyd said despite his ministry’s best efforts to work with Mrs Wilson, officials have too often been met “with insults, disrespect” and an atmosphere that threatens the quality of education for Bahamian students.
He accused Mrs Wilson of illegally leading teachers to industrial action and he claimed Mrs Wilson twice disrespected Education Director Marcellus Taylor in the presence of his subordinates. After one case, he said, the Permanent Secretary sent Mrs Wilson a letter warning her that “neither the ministry nor department will ‘subject (itself) to any further personal attacks by her’.”
Mr Lloyd said Mrs Wilson has twice sent him WhatsApp messages containing the words “f--- y’all.”
“These acts and others have become most intolerable by the ministry,” he said.
“The behaviour and attitude of the president over the past three years, as the leader of such a vital stakeholder as the teachers’ union, are real threats to the advancement of education in this country. Obviously, this ministry will not accept a continuation of this most disrespectful circumstance.
“You are hereby informed that without a written apology from the president to the ministry’s leadership, the Ministry of Education will not attend any meeting with NACE in which the president is present.
“Further, without a written, irrevocable commitment from the president that her disrespectful and insulting behaviour ceases immediately, and that she will demonstrate an earnest, good faith attempt at achieving the world class education for our children, she will receive no accommodation from this ministry as a credible representative of the teachers of the Ministry of Education.”
In response, Mrs Wilson said Mr Lloyd is grasping at straws and is using his letter as a distraction.
She said Mr Lloyd “can hold his breath” about getting an apology and accused him of being petty and dishonest for “sharing private communication in the public domain.”
“He should use his time wisely by writing policy and monitoring the performance of education officials,” she told The Tribune. “He needs to make sure that schools throughout the Bahamas have reliable internet access, teachers have laptops and not tablets that are incompatible with Zoom platform, make sure schools are cleaned and sanitised and safe for teachers and students to occupy, get the virtual platforms implemented so teachers, students and parents can know how to operate it, properly train teachers for the virtual teaching and learning.”
Meanwhile, Mr Pinder said yesterday, he will have to get involved in the dispute.
“The enormous practice is for there to be some level of courtesy extended on both sides,” the Labour Director said. “Based on what happens now I’m going to have to get involved and I will appeal for calmer heads to prevail. In negotiations you could never get everything you want, but you have to be reasonable.”
Mr Pinder said if he can’t solve the dispute, he will recommend that the ministry and BUT leaders participate in arbitration.
“The decision by the arbitrator must be kept by both sides,” he said. “I will try my best to mediate between the two sides. I will use my experience and I hope at the end of the day they’re able to come to a mutual agreement that both sides can live with.”