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posted 2 Mar 2013, 00:30 by Gerry Kangalee

On March 1st, Peter Wilson, General Secretary of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA), issued the following media statement: 
TTUTA will picket the Head Office of the Ministry of Education (MOE) at Alexandra Street, St. Clair, Port of Spain on Monday March 04, 2013, beginning at 10:00 am. 
The General Council of TTUTA met in emergency session yesterday Thursday February 28, and considered the actions of the Minister of Education, Dr. the Honourable Tim Gopeesingh, in barring TTUTA’s 2"d Vice President, Mr. Orville Carrington, from entry onto the compound of the Head Office of the MOE. 
The General Council noted that TTUTA‘s National Officers, who had presented themselves for the scheduled statutory monthly meeting between TTUTA and the Permanent Secretary and senior staff on Wednesday February 27 at 10:00 am at the Head Office of the MOE, were met by locked gates and armed security officials. They were then informed of the instructions of the Minister to deny entry to Mr. Carrington. Subsequently the whole team of National Officers refused to enter the compound to conduct the meeting. 

The General Council was mindful of the fact that TTUTA is the legally recognized majority trade union for teachers in the Teaching Service of Trinidad and Tobago. Under the law, including the Education Act, the MOE must meet and treat with TTUTA to discuss matters relating to teachers. Further, the employer or its agent has no authority to determine who should be TTUTA’s representatives at any meeting. This is TTUTA’s sole prerogative and such right is enshrined in the Conventions of the International Labour Organizational (ILO).

TTUTA asserts that the MOE by its actions on that day sought to determine who should be TTUTA‘s representatives and in effect refused to meet and treat with the Association. The MOE, in TTUTA‘s view, committed an industrial relations offence and this must be taken before the Industrial Court.

It is also standard industrial relations practice that, when conducting trade union business with the employer, trade union officers are on equal footing with the employer. They cannot be spoken down to, ignored or dismissed by the employer, including any Minister. They have the right to treat with the issues robustly and fearlessly.

TTUTA recognizes that the actions of the Minister strikes at the very heart of trade union representation. It is an attack not only on teachers and TTUTA but on all workers and the entire Trade Union Movement.

TTUTA asserts that this instruction to TTUTA’s 2nd Vice President is consistent with the Minister’s display of arrogance at the Cunupia Secondary School and his abysmal management style. His tirade of insults, abuse and threats directed at teachers over the school’s public address system in full earshot of all persons on the compound, including students, and heard by neighbouring households, shows not only his lack of concern for any protocols but also his contemptuous dismissal of sound management principles and good industrial relations practice.

This behaviour of the Minister has now extended itself into the MOE’s bizarre, concocted tale of Mr. Carrington‘s alleged verbal abuse of a junior female employee of the MOE some two (2) months ago, an allegation which Mr. Carrington and TTUTA are now hearing for the first time and reject categorically. TTUTA condemns this latest fabrication of the Minister and the MOE, which reeks of desperation.

TTUTA will not allow Dr. Gopeesingh or any Minister of Education to deny or erode its rights as a trade union in defence of its members. TTUTA will reject any attempt by the Minister or his agents to attempt to ‘set up’ its 2nd Vice President. TTUTA will continue to vigorously and fearlessly defend its members and promote education.

TTUTA calls on the Minister of Education to rescind immediately his instruction to have TTUTA's 2nd Vice President, Mr. Orville Carrington, debarred entry to the Head Office of the MOE.

TTUTA’s Central Executive, General Council, Conference of Delegates and other members will descend on the Head Office of the MOE on Monday March 04. The MOE and Minister Gopeesingh will not be allowed to trample on the rights of TTUTA as a trade union.