Teacher’s union addresses their grievances at general conference

Robyn Nathaniel the first vice president of Antigua Barbuda Union of Teachers. Daryll Matthew minister of education. Casroy Charles president of Antigua Barbuda Union of Teachers
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By Kenicia Francis

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This week has seen annual staging of the Antigua Barbuda Union of Teacher’s special week of activties under the theme Strong, Resolute and Positioned for change. 

There have been different activities throughout the week to celebrate teachersand yesterday they had their business meeting.

The first vice president of the union, Robyn Nathaniel told Observer, “It’s actually our 90th general conference. The union turns 100 two years from now, so we are an old and thriving organization. We’re going to be addressing the issues of the union.”

It began with an opening ceremony which consisted of a speech from the Minister Of Education Daryll Matthew, the state of the union address from the president, Casroy Charles, and solidarity greetings from some of their union affiliates.

The education minister expressed his discontent with the overall general treatment of teachers.

He described them as being used like “over glorified babysitters” despite the fact they’re educating the next generation, in addition to acting like “disaster response officers.”

“I heard [following the earthquake] reports that came out of all schools, that a lot of teachers and the students responded commendably. They stopped, they dropped, they went under. They assembled outside in a structured and organized way. For teachers recognizing that the safety of all those within their care really depends on their response, I think it’s worth commending,” he stated.

Matthew also congratulated the union on their chosen theme, highlighting that teachers do in fact need to be positioned for change, given the recent advances in technology. 

“I’m sure all of you remember life before the internet. You can compare what it was then to what it is now, and you see how the internet just totally changed how we live. But we’re going through a change again, perhaps a bigger change, going from where we are today to Artificial Intelligence.”

 He challenged the teachers to be more open and receptive to AI.

In the state of the union address, the president Casroy Charles listed a few of the grievances that the union has with the ministry of education.

“The joy of signing our collective bargaining agreement on April 11 2024 has not, nor will it distract us from the fact that further consultation and negotiation in relation to teacher reclassification retroactive payment for salary increases and other contractual benefits need to be held like yesterday.” he began.

Charles also made it known that the union is aware that the Sir Novelle Richards Academy and the Pares Secondary aren’t enclosed as promised, and that 6 out of 15 schools still don’t have cameras despite assurances that they would receive them. 

He also revealed that three teachers haven’t received retroactive payment for upgrades, and it’s been 22 days since the initial settlement payment for teacher upgrades.

“Our principals and deputy principals are to receive their remodelation as highlighted in Article 5.1 and 5.2 of the memorandum of agreement between the Chief Establishment Officer and the Antigua and Barbuda Union of Teacher for the contract period 2018 to 2024 as of May 30th, 2024, this month end. We also implore you to make the requisite arrangement to facilitate the 2023 to 2024 payment for cover all allowances the individuals who qualify for said payment,” he said.

Charles also reiterated the theme adding, “Teachers are strong, resolute and positioned for change since too many parents, students and many factions of civil society regularly and openly express content towards our nation’s teachers. Some will have attempted to and have inflicted violence upon our nation’s teachers with little to no penalties.” 

“However, teachers continue to function at a highly efficient and effective rate in spite of these atrocities and presence of mediocre educational management procedures, practices and systems that continuously fail to provide them with a healthy and safe working environment. In case you are unaware, it takes strong, resolute individuals to successfully navigate a working environment that is permeated with substandard working foundations, policies and rules,” he continued.

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