The new government subsidised medical insurance plan that the Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) has been fighting tooth and nail for finally took effect this week.
The need for the insurance coverage became even more pressing when the union’s self-contracted insurance coverage with Bahama Health ended two years ago.
But, in January the union and the government reached an amicable agreement.
But, as of July 1, the 4,000 teachers that make up the BUT have full medical coverage with Colina Imperial. The government is paying 80 per cent of the total cost.
Appearing as a guest on Love 97’s daily talk show, Issues of the Day yesterday, BUT President Belinda Wilson said it’s the first time in the union’s 65-year history that this has happened.
“We not only pushed for benefits for teachers and for people under our bargaining unit, but we and the ministry have made a concerted effort to make sure that what we agreed to in this agreement, including medical insurance, helps to move education in a positive direction,” said Mrs. Wilson.
Mrs. Wilson said beginning today at 10:00 a.m. teachers will be able to pick up their insurance cards from the union’s Bethel Avenue headquarters.
“We will receive a lump sum payment this week and we are also going to get a salary increase, which is equivalent to an annual increment,” he said.
According to Mrs. Wilson, the lump sum payment amounts to about $700.
Teachers’ salaries, she said, will also be increased by $700 a year beginning this month’s pay cycle.
The union’s current industrial agreement ends June 30, 2013 with negotiations expected to commence soon.
“We have met with the full team at the Ministry of Education already and the one thing we believe is that the new minister, Jerome Fitzgerald, has an open mind. What we think will be a plus for him is that he is coming from a business background which means this would be the first time that a businessman gets to sit in the chair as minister of education,” Mrs. Wilson said.
“And that’s a plus in terms of the budget; however, he’s a novice in terms of education. So, we hope that he would walk slowly, but not to slow but swiftly enough to make some changes and to effect change in a positive way.”
She continued, “So, we find him to be open thus far and he has committed to meet once per month so that we can be up-to-date with what’s happening in education on a daily basis.”