EDITORIAL: Why is it so difficult?


When thousands of primary students should be preparing for the transition they will make in their young lives, this island was treated to yet another flare-up within the trade union movement – this time the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT).
What is even more disturbing is that as we prepare to celebrate the May Day Bank Holiday tomorrow, we are left wondering – given the most recent actions of some unions – when the next threat of action will take place. When will the next disruption, which does little to inspire confidence in those who live here and ultimately those who look on from a distance, occur?
We are well aware that there will be disruptions within the public and private sectors. Disputes arise over time, but we should expect that those tasked with working towards a solution will act with the country’s best interest at heart. So it stands to reason that we can legitimately question if the spirits of compromise and respect have disappeared.
Workers have been the backbone of the development of this country, however employers have played some part as well and we must never forget this reality. So often, when we hear the arguments regarding a scenario, we should sit back and look at all the facts and establish how we can bring both disputing sides to the table to work towards a consensus.
The most recent flare-up involves the Ministry of Education and the BUT. One of the major issues involves the subject of indiscipline in schools and the desire by the union for actions to be taken. Fine, however, will the union agree if the called for action requires an increased and heightened state of security…perhaps metal detectors and the institution of increased surveillance measures designed to create a safer working environment? So, say this is done, will heightened tensions remain?
It should be noted that the Minister of Education should meet with the teachers and thrash out the issues which have caused this impasse, but first he should summon the head of the BUT and his executive to meet with his leadership team at the Ministry for as long as it takes to deal with the problems.
The time for posturing has passed. It is time for mature men and women who are charged with guiding our young men and women in difficult times to realise that when you make the story about you … then you have officially lost control and become part of the problem. It cannot be about calling for a Minister to resign, when discussions with a spirit of compromise can accomplish so much.
We can learn a lot from the leaders of the past. National Hero, the Right Excellent Sir Frank Walcott understood the power and role of the trade union movement and that understanding came with the acceptance that true development and growth came with an undertaking to work with those who can make things better, to achieve the objectives. However, when these objectives are outlined, it would be up to all concerned to put their heads down and get to work.
Parents have a role as well. They should engage schools and keep track of their children’s performances by maintaining excellent relations with the teachers.
The path forward would be to find a mechanism to handle these issues. Oh wait…don’t we have something known as the Social Partnership which is supposed to deal with these issues? The time for posturing is over when the well-being of the school-aged children of this island is being disrupted. It is time for the Minister to deal with these issues.

Barbados Advocate

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