Owen Speid, JTA President 2019-2020

We Won’t Tolerate Union-Busting, Speid Warns Mona High Principal

Publication Date: 
Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Outspoken president of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) Owen Speid and principal, Keven Jones, are embroiled in a war of wills, with the school administrator accused of union-busting.

Speid claims that the teachers’ union has been denied access to Mona High School twice - the latest failed attempt being on Tuesday.

However, Speid, who is himself a school principal, said that when he and other JTA officials turned up at the school, they were not allowed in. Jones had been previously alerted to the visit last Friday, Speid said.

“When my team and I arrived, he sent a letter in which he claimed that we could not be accommodated because he was involved in other school matters and would not be able to tour with us,” said Speid.

“This is tantamount to union-busting, and principals of schools throughout Jamaica must be informed that this kind of behaviour cannot be tolerated.”

In outlining the JTA’s right to be granted access to schools, Speid said that Jones had an obligation to allow visits to the workplaces of its members.

The JTA president emphasised that he should be treated with courtesy.

“I am sure a principal would not deny a member of parliament from visiting a school in his constituency,” added Speid.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

However, Jones rejected Speid’s assertion of union-busting as an over-reaction or much ado about nothing.

“I wrote an email to inform him that he could be accommodated on June 15. Despite this, he arrived with his team to tour the school,” said Jones, who said he had no objection to entertaining JTA representatives at his school.

Jones also rubbished Speid’s claim that a previous run-in back in September 2019 was an attempt at union-busting, arguing that the JTA’s visit was too early in the morning.

“On that occasion, he arrived at 6:39 a.m. Nobody was there to allow him entrance. It was not any form of union-busting,” said Jones.

Speid has been visiting schools since the Government announced that schools were going to be reopened on June 8 to facilitate students sitting external examinations. The visits are to ensure that the schools meet the COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

“(On Tuesday) I visited six other schools, and only Mona High prevented us from touring,” said Speid.

“We (JTA) have a responsibility to look after the interests of teachers, and no union-busting is going to prevent us from carrying out our mandate.”

Speid was recently criticised by the Reverend Claude Ellis, principal of Pembroke Hall High School in St Andrew.

“I am begging for some quality representation from my union. I don’t need only a watchdog to criticise everything that is being done, but a union with recommendations and answers,” Ellis said in a Gleaner op-ed.

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