Work to rule has become the new buzz phrase in the industrial relations vocabulary. The vast majority of Grenadians had never heard of the term before it was used by the President of the Teachers Union. What really is work to rule? Simply put it is an action in which employees do no more than what is required by the rules of their contract. It is a powerful piece of industrial relations strategy, especially when it is used by employees who go way beyond the call of duty….. like teachers for example.
It is well known that teachers extend themselves to the limit in order to make the Education system work. Typically, in our Education system there are three tiers of responsibility. The first is the input. This is the responsibility of Government through the Ministry of Education. It has to ensure that schools are built and that all the necessary material, equipment and supplies are available. It is also responsible for setting the curriculum and for ensuring that teachers are trained.
Second, there is the process. This is the responsibility of teachers and principals. They are responsible for the instructional process. They have to guarantee that they use all of the material, equipment, supplies and training provided by Government to impart knowledge to their charges using appropriate strategies to ensure that their students learn.
Finally, there is the output. This is the responsibility of the students. They must now internalise the knowledge imparted and demonstrate that learning has taken place. The output is usually how the effectiveness of a school is measured whether through academic or co-curricular outputs.
Clearly, one can see from this conceptualisation, why work to rule will be highly effective in the Grenada education system. The teachers are actually contributing significantly to the input tier and absorbing a huge chunk of the Government’s responsibility. It is well known that teachers are the only workers who are expected to provide the material, supplies and equipment needed to do their work.
Imagine GRENLEC workers having to raise funds to buy wire and electricity poles or NAWASA employees having to buy pipe iron and chlorine or even vans in order to do their jobs. However, this is what teachers have been doing year after year.
I was a teacher for four years and this is what prompted me to seek a less slave-like profession. By the time you factor in that teachers take home work on a daily basis or that they work way after the bell rings at the end of the school day to ensure that the many extracurricular activities are taken care of or that they spend their own monies to feed, clothe and take care of their students to commute to and from school, work to rule cannot be taken lightly in Grenada.
When the Unions took industrial action over the payment of gratuity, the Government warned that they were going to dock the pay of workers. The Prime Minister claimed that it was well within the Government’s right to do so both legally and morally. The President of the Teachers’ Union countered that if Government proceeds to dock the pay of teachers, that the Union will institute work to rule.
Understanding how crippling work to rule could potentially be in Grenada, as I have highlighted before, one would have expected the Government to pause, take another look at its cards and try to broker a solution with the unions through dialogue; one which would avoid work to rule. Instead, in its customary high handed style the Government proceeded to dock the pay of teachers; even those who went to work or are on various forms of leave.
What is worse, the Prime Minister and his Ministers “curse up teachers” at every opportunity. So, they docked the salaries of teachers on the premise that they could not pay them for work that they did not do and even followed it up with some good cussing. They left the Teachers Union with no choice but to do what it said it would do… institute work to rule on the basis that teachers are only going to do what they are being paid to do. Quite a fair and legitimate response.
So now, the education system and the entire nation are feeling the effects of the work to rule. There have been no sporting activities thus far. Right Start football, which started before the Work to Rule was instituted has ground to a halt and GAPSS was forced to call off the Intercol Games.
At this rate I anticipate that there will be no Primary School Games, School Athletic Meets, Relay Meet, Drum Festival, Knowledge Bowl or any of those events which students participate in and which require teachers to go beyond what is stipulated in their contracts.
The Union had also cautioned that teachers will not be marking SBAs or CPEA projects. In essence, the teachers have shown that they are serious and have taken a stand.
The blame for all of this must be placed squarely on the backs of the Government. It is the cause of this. They have to fix what they did. Instead, they have launched an attack against teachers, demonising them and setting up their surrogates to call the talk shows to lambaste them; and the more they push and drag the teachers in the mud, is the more determined the teachers are becoming. If the massive crowd of teachers who attended the Union’s meeting at GBSS has not warned them that the teachers are prepared to fight, then nothing will.
As a parent of a child who will be writing CSEC Exams this year, I am very concerned about the diminished quality of the Education that my child is receiving, not to mention the fact that her SBAs may be in limbo. It is time for every Parent Teachers Association and indeed, every parent to rise up and say to this Government that enough is enough. You created this mess which has placed our children’s future in jeopardy. Fix it.
Through your high handedness, vindictiveness and draconian actions, you have placed the most diligent, conscientious and caring workers in Grenada in a position where they now feel inclined to stand up for their rights. They took a justifiable industrial action for pension and gratuity and you spitefully docked nine days from their salaries, all in an effort to show that you are large and in charge.
Even the Bishop of the Catholic Church admonished you to not take out food from the workers table. What is worse, you humiliated them with every word that came forth from your collective mouths.
The work to rule is not an action that the teachers have taken to protest the gratuity. They took that action to protest the unceremonious, uncompromising and belittling docking of their salaries. The Government needs to fix this by first returning the salaries which they docked.
The Minister for Education, Emmalin Pierre needs also to be replaced forthwith. There is no way that teachers would be able to work with this lady. During the industrial action, she showed through written and spoken words that she has zero respect for teachers. She has shown herself to be divisive and somehow feels that she is at war with teachers and their union. This is the most unpopular Minister of Education that there has ever been and there is no way that she can administrate a system which depends on the goodwill of those whom she has shown total contempt for.
Instead of removing the Permanent Secretary, the one person whom teachers and all Education stakeholders have come to admire and respect because of his vast knowledge of the education system and because of the way he played his role as PS plus the role of Chief Education Officer, Minister Emmalin Pierre should have been sent back to hide in the Ministry of Implementation.
We as parents have either remained quiet or blamed the hardworking, underpaid and disrespected teachers as things deteriorated. Some of us have become so pathetically partisan that instead of levelling the blame at whom it is supposed to be levelled, we have chosen to blame the persons who are more parents to our children than some of us will ever be and who have invested their time, effort, monies, words, resources, goodwill, blood, sweat and tears to ensure that our children have a good future.
Even the children protested while most of us said nothing or lambasted teachers. It is time for us to let our voices be heard. It is time for us to speak to the people who we voted for and tell them that we are not compromising on our children’s future. Their fate lies in the hands of the Government.
We voted for them to lead and thus far, they have demonstrated atrocious leadership. History will not be kind to us if we do nothing; our children will never forgive us. This is not my thing or your thing or an NNP thing or an NDC thing. This is the educational future of our children thing. If we cannot fight for our children, then we are dead in spirit and are unlike every other species which God has created.