Union a sanctuary

The Barbados Secondary Teachers Union has become a place of refuge and safety for a number of teachers at the Alexandra School.

But Amaida Greaves, the teacher at the centre of industrial action affecting that institution in January, revealed today that she only signed on to this “sanctuary” four years ago as relations with Principal Jeff Broomes worsened.

Greaves, who has headed Alexandra’s Science Department for 18 years and taught there for almost 40 years, said it took her 36 years to join BSTU because up to then she saw no need for it.

She was giving her second day of evidence at the Commission of Enquiry into Alexandra, held at the Wildey Gymnasium, Garfield Sobers Sports Complex.

Responding to a question on the matter from the commission’s senior counsel Milton Pierce, she said after being constantly asked to join the union, she decided to do so in recent years, and was previously an executive member.

“Sir, I was at Alexandra for almost 40 years, come September that is what it would be, I have been in the union for the last four. Persons have been trying to get me (to join) … but I said we don’t need the union,” she said.

“I was not in the union, I did not join the union. When we had a problem with (former principal) Mr. Brathwaite, Mr. Brathwaite would meet with us we would discuss it and we would sort it out. I did not know what was the union, I knew people who were in the union, that was it.”

Greaves said her views on the need for the union had changed under the Broomes’ leadership.

“Previously to Mr. Broomes’ tenure we heard about trade unions, I don’t know if they ever visited the school, I don’t know if anybody ever contacted any trade union prior to that. I know there were teachers, Mrs Clarke she was a shop steward and Mrs Jules, and Mr Johnson I think … was one,” she stated.

“I did not become a union member at the beginning, this only came after, when all the trials and tribulations started, so the union is now active in the Alexandra school. The trade union now has become like a sanctuary for teachers to run to, but it was never like that before.

“When Mr. Broomes does whatever he does best, makes teachers miserable, then people go to (BSTU President) Miss Redman and the union and they make their complaints and she has written several letters to the Ministry (of Education) hoping for something.”

The teacher also told the commission neither her testimony nor actions at Alexandra were predicated on espousing the BSTU’s mandate.

“When I came back (from leave) and found all the confusion … that was my concern, the union was not. Probably if the union was … my concern when I got the letter (from Broomes) somebody would have told me to reply to it,” she testified.

“The union was not in my mind, the students were in my mind, the department was in my mind,” Greaves added. (SC)

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