by Roy R. Morris
Jeff Broomes has a fool-proof constitutional action against the Government of Barbados.
That’s how Queen’s Counsel Vernon Smith, primary representative of the embattled principal summed up their position in an exclusive interview with Barbados TODAY this morning.
But he stressed that Barbadians should not expect anything but the strongest, yet most responsible conduct from Broomes and those representing him.
Meanwhile, it appears that attempts by a sizeable contingent of officials from the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union, led by President Mary Redman, to get a meeting with education officials today failed.
Sources said the contingent first sought a meeting with the Chief Personnel Officer at the Culloden Road office, but was directed to the Elsie Payne Complex, headquarters of the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development. However, the members left soon after entering the compound just short of 1 p.m., having failed to secure the meeting.
While the Ministry of Education last Friday moved into high gear a plan for the transfer and/or dismissal of nearly two dozen teachers and administrators from the Alexandra School after years of debilitating conflict, Barbados TODAY investigations revealed that up to this afternoon couriers assigned the task of serving Broomes with official notice of his transfer to the Parkinson Memorial Secondary School had not been able to locate him.
Smith confirmed that up to the time of the interview Broomes had not received any notice, but that his lawyers and two unions were already agreed on an initial plan of action.
“I am satisfied that he [Broomes] has a fool-proof constitutional action against the Government…,” Smith said. “At the same time, I am also satisfied that what has now taken place goes to the root of his contract of service … and as such also constitutes a major trade union dispute.”
The veteran attorney, who led Broomes’ defence during the Alexandra School Commission of Enquiry in July and August, explained that once Broomes is officially notified, the top brass of the National Union of Public Workers, the Barbados Association of Principals of Public Secondary Schools and his full legal team, which includes Queen’s Counsel Cecil McCarthy, would meet.
“Let me make it clear where I stand. I am a proud Barbadians and I always put Barbados first. We have no intention of embarking on any path to destabilise this country. We will defend Jeff vigorously from start to finish, but we will act responsibly.
“Our first approach will be to allow the unions to treat this as a labour matter, and the best way to do this is to talk. We expect that the Government will take the unions seriously so the matter can be settled sensibly, amicably and fairly. Beyond that we will have to see what happens.”
However, Smith said he did not share the view of some Barbadians that the commission of enquiry into the breakdown of management at the school, which culminated in the mass transfers, was a waste of time, he pointed out that he recently made this position known to Minister of Education Ronald Jones.
He explained that his considered view was that by holding the commission of enquiry, all Barbadians were able to see that the issue was not what was portrayed by the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union, which had been shouting that Broomes had made the situation at the school untenable for teachers.
“I don’t agree it was a waste of time,” he said. “As a matter of fact I recommended it …”
Meanwhile, highly placed sources revealed that the shake-up at Alexandra was far from over, with plans already in place to effect additional transfers at the end of the current academic year.
It was on Friday that couriers were busy delivering letters to 36 teachers from 16 schools, plus the principal of Parkinson and deputies from Alexandra and Combermere School indicating they would be shifted come January 7, the start of the new school term.
The BSTU has not indicated the action it would be taking, having met with its members on Saturday while the Barbados Union of Teachers will discuss the matter at a meeting later this week as some of their members are being transferred.
A very upset Head of the Industrial Arts Department at Princess Margaret Secondary, Ronald Jordan who teaches fourth and fifth formers auto mechanics and autoelectronics, said that “this type of behaviour is unprofessional, reckless and uncalled for”.
“I was never part of the Alexandra problem, how did I get into the Alexandra problem at all?” he asked. “I have some students I am preparing for City and Guilds Engine System 1 and Chassis Systems 1 for May/June this year and I can get this type of letter from a ministry who is in charge of education in this country sending me to a school that I had no consultation with the Ministry, even the Acting Principal of Princess Margaret School did not know anything about his letter,” he said.