By EARYEL BOWLEG
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Bahamas Educators, Counselors and Allied Workers Union signed an industrial agreement with the government on Friday.
Obie Ferguson, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) president, considered the event the “most historic event” in the labour movement.
Sandra Major, the union’s president, expressed how empowering the move was.
“There are so many people to say thank you to because this has allowed us to know that we do have a voice in this country and we have the right to choice and that right has not been taken away from us and we do not take that right very lightly,” she said.
“Because we know with leadership comes great responsibility. Leaders are meant to mentor. Leaders are meant to encourage. Leaders are meant to set the examples and that is what we will strive to do.”
She said they are pleased with what they received from the government with their first industrial agreement.
“We received from them, of course, an increase in salary,” she said. “We got an increment and this is the largest we’ve ever received over a three-year period and I was teaching for over 40 years and I have never received this great increase in my salary in three years.
“We also received the retention bonus – so the retention bonus as well we’ve accepted. We also got an increase in our allowances. We got an increase on our rental assistance. We got our insurance agent, which gave us a greater benefit to us.”
When asked about the percentage of the raise, Ms Major replied: “In the first year we get a salary increase equal to two increments plus your normal increment and then the second year we get a salary increase equal to one increment plus normal increment. Then in the third year we get two again plus your normal increment.
“The retention bonus is after 25 years. You can accept all of it and it’s a gift.”
Education, Technical and Vocational Minister Glenys Hanna Martin further explained what is included.
“The financial compensation includes increases, increases in allowances, retention bonuses,” she said. “The agreement also deals with a range of issues, including increases in the rents for teachers who move throughout the country.
“It deals with career paths for teachers. It speaks about enhanced conditions. It gives clarity in the relations between the teachers and employer. It provides for the exploration of a teacher’s commission to see whether that will be the correct process to expedite issues, HR issues that deal with teachers to avoid the continuing frustration that the current system allows for.”
This signing comes after Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) president Belinda Wilson told teachers to get ready to take industrial action on August 22, insisting the government has had ample time to bring closure to matters of concern for educators.
Asked why her union broke away from the BUT, Ms Major said it was time to do something different.
“Whenever two can walk together they have to agree and we were all in this at the same time and we decided that (if) we want to be the change then we must be the change that we wanted. Because if you continue doing something the same way and getting the same results you’re considered an idiot,” she told the media.
“So in doing the same thing, we realised that we’re not getting anywhere. It’s time to do something different. It’s time to have our own voice, and because we recognise that we are teachers, we are educators, we can govern ourselves, And if you have rules that govern an organisation you must learn to abide by the rules that govern your organisation.”