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BUT presses demands on new agreement

BUT says meeting with PM was productive
Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: Oct 11, 2013

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Following a meeting with Prime Minister Perry Christie and Minister of Labour Shane Gibson, officials of the Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) have backed off their threat to file a trade dispute today if the government did not submit a counterproposal for a new industrial agreement, BUT President Belinda Wilson said.

However, Wilson claimed that after a “productive, impromptu” meeting on Wednesday, the union has been assured the counterproposal will be given to the union within two weeks.

The union presented its proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement on May 10, Wilson said.

The last agreement expired on June 30.

“In the discussion we did not delve into what their counterproposal will contain,” Wilson said.

“What we want to do at this time — in good faith — is wait to see what they counterpropose.

“At the table we will definitely be able to adamantly and vigorously defend our reasoning.”

The union wants a 12 percent increase over a three-year period — three percent in 2014, three percent in 2015 and six percent in 2016 — for its members, and 100 percent medical insurance coverage.

Teachers currently pay 20 percent of their medical insurance. The union also wants the medical insurance coverage to include dental and vision.

The union also wants the starting salary of entry level teachers with Bachelor’s degrees and teaching certificates to be increased from $25,200 to $29,700.

That increase was proposed to the Ingraham administration during the negotiation of the previous industrial agreement.

But the government said it was not in a position to negotiate increases in salaries and benefits at that time.

“It is amazing that…whenever we talk about salary increases then you would have some people say teachers believe they should get more money than others,” Wilson said.

“But it is the teachers who produce the other allied workers in every other profession. It is a basic fundamental need.”

In its proposal, the union noted that the government conducted a compensation study for the public service, which “highlighted the disparity in salaries between education personnel and other public and quasi government employees with the same qualifications”.

That study was conducted in July 2012, according to the union.

The union wants the government to extend the maximum pay scale.

Wilson said 900 teachers have reached the maximum of the scale.

The current maximum a trained teacher can earn is $35,700 per year.

Wilson said she does not want to “get lost” in the financial part of the agreement as there are several other critical areas that need attention, including union officials’ access to school campuses and reassignment of teachers.

For example, the union wants the class sizes in pre, primary, secondary and vocational schools to be limited where practicable.

It is seeking a maximum of 20 students in pre-school classes; 30 students in primary school classes; 35 students in secondary school classess; 25 students in multi-grade classes and 15 students in technical and vocational classes.

The union also wants new provisions for teachers participating in extended learning programs, extra-curricular activities and coaching.

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