Categorized | National News

Fitzgerald: Court Ruling Doesn’t Change Much

Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald said despite a Supreme Court ruling handed down last week not much will change when it comes to the Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) being able to hold meetings on school campuses during school hours.

On Friday BUT President Belinda Wilson dubbed the right month court battle a victory.

“I’m glad that justice actually prevailed and the law showed that the government or a minister or whomever is not above the law and it was also a testament to the strength of the collective bargaining agreement which is actually signed by the union and the government but it’s also binding on both parties,” she said.

“It’s a moral victory, it’s a victory for the strength of the union. It’s a victory for everything the union stands for, so for the past 67 years we’ve been allowed to go onto school campuses and hold meetings and just by the stroke of a pen, we had a minister or agent of the minister just stop the right that we have to represent our members.”

However, in a press statement issued by Minister Fitzgerald on Saturday while the BUT president is claiming victory, “nothing much has changed from the government’s earlier policy position.”

“We never said they cannot have a meeting; we just said we do not want to have it during the school day, meaning between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. We then wrote to them and we used the word that they ‘shall’ not have it during the school day.

“The Chief Justice said that based on the wording in the agreement, we should tell them what our preferences are but we cannot direct them on what to do. And so that’s all we will do – we would change the word ‘shall’ to ‘should,’ but the principles are very clear on what my position is and what the ministry’s position is moving forward. So I don’t know whether it’s something that the president of the union or the union will be celebrating.”

The initial circular that sparked the court action was issued in the wake of complaints from public school officials that union meetings on school campuses held between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. were interfering with the instructional periods and were compromising the education and general safety and welfare of the students.

It was reported that some meetings that commenced during the lunch period would last well into the last instructional period of the school day.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology found this practice unacceptable sought to discontinue union meetings during school hours.

According to Ms. Wilson, now that the matter has been resolved, her union can move forward with other plans beginning today.

She said BUT officials will contact the principals of various schools for the approval to visit their union members later in the week.

“The judge expects, the BUT expects and our lawyer expects that today (Friday) a new circular be sent out to all of the schools throughout the Commonwealth of The Bahamas to replace the circular that was sent out last year,” she said.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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