|The right to picket |
T&TUTA ON TUESDAY Tuesday, March 21 2017
SINCE THE inception of TTUTA in 1979, the right to engage in peaceful marches, protest and picket action has been employed as a legitimate method of communicating union positions to the Government and public at large.
Picket action and marches have been legitimate options which TTUTA and other unions have consistently used to convey strong messages of discontent and dissatisfaction.
In our history these actions were always peaceful.
While many government officials and commentators may have expressed dissatisfaction with the action, even seeking to have injunctions issued by the courts to prevent such action, in the case of TTUTA compliance with the law always ensured that picket actions and marches were a held without the threat of violence.
It is therefore extremely disheartening to know that that clean record has been blemished by none other than the very students who teachers fight to nurture and protect.
The recent display by students at a secondary school in the Victoria Education District must have sent shivers up the spine of all right thinking citizens who understand democratic principles.
While many may not agree with the stand taken by teachers on issues from time to time, in modern democracies we all accept that while we may not agree with the views expressed by someone, we will fight for their right to express them. This must continue to be a fundamental pillar of our democracy and one which we must all jealously guard.
It is obvious that those students who threw missiles at the protesting teachers knew nothing about these fundamental democratic principles and freedoms that we are proud to embrace as a modern and civil society. As minors they can’t be held responsible for their action in the strictest sense of the word since they were obviously acting out of ignorance.
This level of miseducation of young people is troubling to say the least. When taken against the background of the era of alternative truths and misinformation that characterise social media, these fundamental freedoms and rights can no longer be taken for granted.
Other employers harbouring farright extremist views must be delighted that, alas, innocent people can be incited to violently attack others engaging in legitimate protest action. The consequences of this development must be a source of worry and concern for all trade unions operating in this country.
We have certainly entered a new era.
Most bewildering of all is the fact that presiding over all of this is a minister who boasts of a long and distinguished career as a vociferous and sometimes militant trade union leader who would have proudly led his members in many a peaceful protest/picket/march to defend their rights as workers.
Instead, the condemnation has been reserved for the teachers who were simply exercising their legitimate right under the law. Unfortunately, many who condemn the teachers are not in possession of all the facts pertinent to the matter yet are quick to jump to conclusions and pass judgment.
Media reports form the basis for judgment by many, including those in authority.
TTUTA as the recognised bargaining unit for all teachers has always consistently prided itself with exercising restraint and exhausting the dialogue process before it resorts to protest action in order to resolve any issue. This position often allows the union to be accused by its own members of dragging its feet and allowing the Ministry of Education to delay the resolution of issues for years.
Unfortunately, the issues erupting in the public domain around this school is déjà vu for TTUTA; uncanny how history repeats