Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi is expected to present a report to Education Minister Anthony Garcia, tomorrow, on whether the TT Unified Teachers’ Association's (TTUTA) had acted lawfully in urging teachers to join the Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) in its day of rest of reflection on Friday.
“I spoke with the Attorney General this morning (yesterday) and by Monday he has assured me that the request of Cabinet will be in my hands,” Garcia told a news conference, yesterday, at the ministry’s headquarters, St Vincent Street, Port of Spain.
Telling reporters the issue was discussed at length at Thursday’s Cabinet meeting, Garcia said Al-Rawi was subsequently directed to research a body of legislation, including the Education Act, Civil Service Act, Industrial Relations Act and Teaching Service Commission Regulation and “other relevant bits of legislation,” to determine if there was any legitimacy to the union’s call.
Garcia said the ministry was also liaising with the Chief Personnel Officer on the issue of terms and conditions of service.
“In house, we have our own legal department and we are getting advice from our legal department and we will use that advice, together with advice from the attorney general to guide us in how we proceed.”
He added: “One of the things that came out of the discussion at the level of Cabinet is the fact that when TTUTA said publicly they are asking teachers to stay home as a mark of support to the OWTU that can be construed as a sympathy strike.”
Garcia said the AG was also looking at this issue.
TTUTA president Lynsley Doodhai has come under fire in some quarters for his call for teachers to boycott classes to support of the OWTU’s day of rest of reflection.
“Schools will be devoid of teachers come next week Friday. Do not waste your hard earn money for transportation costs, to prepare lunch because teachers will not be in school on Friday,” Doodhai told a news conference on Wednesday.
“All teachers, we are making a call to you, stay away, rest and reflect on the many issues that are troubling the education sector.”
Doodhai has since made no apologies nor has he retracted his call.
He could not be reached for comment regarding the Government’s decision to seek legal advice.
Yesterday, Raffiena Ali-Boodoosingh, president of the National Parent-Teacher Association, who also attended the briefing, again chastised the action.
”Our children are losing too much teaching time for several reasons and it works negatively for our children,” she said.
“Yes, we know that teachers will want to be in solidarity with other workers but at the same time we have to look at what signals we are sending to our children because you are telling our children in your classes that you don’t solve problems by protesting.
“You dialogue, you collaborate, you come to consensus. But in the public you see leaders doing something else.”
Ali-Boodoosingh said students were also looking forward to their first week of school.
“Our children are anxious to go to their new classes, open their new books and come Friday you are telling the students, stay home, teachers are not coming to school.
“I am sure that teachers, administrators would ensure the safety of the children in school and I am appealing to parents to send your children to school.”