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Bahamas: Strike averted as negotiations begin

EI affiliate the Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) has decided not to take industrial action as they prepare to start negotiations with government negotiators over the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Initially, when the document was given to government negotiators earlier this month, president of the BUT, Ida Poitier, said if negotiations did not start within seven days "appropriate" action would be taken. However, government negotiators have contacted the union and are trying to find an amicable time to start negotiations. The Collective Bargaining Agreement is a three-year deal outlining clauses to ensure the safety of teaching professionals and to develop focus on the profession. It outlines salary increases for teachers, benefits, education policies, disaster management, a new curriculum, hours of work, proper pay schedule, end of term examinations and class sizes, work place safety and hazard pay. The agreement also addresses the time frame in which schools should be repaired in the wake of Hurricane Wilma. The teachers union is the only union whose salary negotiations were not completed last year, despite their protest. According to Mrs. Poitier, teachers have not received an increase since 2002, despite the government’s allocation of $24 million to address salary increases and anomalies for all public servants in the 2005 budget. Nevertheless, the union president is optimistic that teachers will receive their benefits listed in the collective agreement as long as the government foes not try to apply a merit pay system to teachers. "A merit system or productivity pay is not something that is feasible for the educational system. We do not deal in objects like putting nails in a box, we work with human beings," the union president said earlier this month. Mrs. Poitier added that teachers should not be judged based on the performance of students, arguing that educators nowadays have to deal with a host of issues geared towards bringing order to a classroom before teaching can take place.