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Teachers’ union urges ‘unconditional’ end to ban on school meetings

The Gibraltar Teachers Association has called on senior management teams to lift the “unnecessary and unpopular ban unconditionally” on holding meetings on school premises.

This is the latest salvo in the ongoing row over the Government’s schools programme and comes after senior teachers from Westside, St Martin’s, Governor’s Meadow and Bishop Fitzgerald schools said that they supported union meetings on their premises.

They explained that the recent ban was ‘temporary’ and that senior teachers want to allow GTA meetings to take place on their premises, albeit with certain conditions attached.

In a statement the GTA said its position on the matter of teacher satisfaction with HM Government’s proposals to relocate a number of schools is “beyond reproach”.

“It is clear to all that we did not mislead or misrepresent the SMT or the teachers of these four schools,” it added.

Flagging a letter from the Minister for Education to the union, the GTA said Dr Cortes was aware that teachers from Bishop Fitzgerald and Governor’s Meadow were disappointed that they were going into an existing building rather than into a new one and that the senior team from Westside were reluctant at the time to move from their present location.

“Although the sentiments of the SMT may have changed since then, a large proportion of the teaching staff at Westside School continue to not support the move primarily on educational grounds, as stated in our press release on their behalf on 28th January 2018,” the union said.

According to the union, Dr Cortes acknowledged in his letter that the location of the schools was largely determined by the land available and the land that would be released.

“Since the publication of his letter, a number of teachers have approached the union urging the Executive to continue pressing the Official Side to place education and not market forces at the forefront of the education revolution.”

The union added: “Given that the SMT’s grievance that the GTA misled public opinion and misrepresented them has been proven to be completely unfounded, we fail to understand what the ‘disagreement’ that led to a temporary ban was about in the first place.”

“We can only speculate that SMT may not have agreed with the union’s honest portrayal in answer to questions from a Gibraltar Chronicle reporter.”

“However, as a union, we have a very important responsibility to ensure that our members’ concerns are aired and we cannot lie or withhold information simply because it may not suit SMT or the Official Side.”

This, the GTA said, is standard union practice around the world and should not catch anybody by surprise.

The union added that it hopes that it was not intended as a punishment because punishing the union’s Executive is the same as punishing the entire union’s membership.

The GTA said it has never questioned the support from SMT to conduct business at any school for the simple reason that up to last week all members of SMT were also members of the union.

Preventing the normal democratic processes of the union would be contrary to the principles that the SMT subscribed to when becoming members and would simply not make sense, the union added.

Following the disagreement and the ban, SMT from St. Paul’s and Notre Dame decided to terminate their membership with the union.

“Considering that there was no misleading or misrepresentation, and that they were never mentioned in any of our public statements, we are now even more perplexed as to the reasons why they left.”

“Finally, we cannot accept the condition by SMT of Westside, Bishop Fitzgerald, Governor’s Meadow and St. Martin’s schools in their statement that the Gibraltar NASUWT consult them prior to any press release relating to their schools.”

“We would like to remind them that individual members of the SMT in each school represent an individual member of the union, and as such cannot veto the wishes of the majority of members in that school if a press release exposes issues that are not to their liking and a majority want them aired.”

“Neither can a union be censored when engaging with the media in an interview because SMT needs to be consulted beyond any consultation that has already occurred with the membership.”

The GTA said it therefore requests that the SMT of the four schools remove this “unnecessary and unpopular ban unconditionally” so that both parties can work together to ensure that any future disagreements are resolved as amicably and constructively as possible, while acknowledging the role that each one plays in the education system.

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