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Under the weather

BSTU head Mary Redman tells of teachers’ illnesses today.

by Latoya Burnham

Eight of 14 Alexandra teachers who are members of the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union and received transfer letters to other schools are now on sick leave.

And tomorrow when the Alexandra School opens for classes officially, the BSTU will be meeting with its lawyer and the remaining teachers will be awaiting the outcome of that consultation, as “is their constitutional right”.

President Mary-Ann Redman told reporters this afternoon that the teachers have been so traumatised by the Alexandra situation that many of them were ill as a result.

She said the meeting yesterday with her union was filled with tears and teachers reporting how it has affected them and by today eight of them reported to the union that their doctors have recommended sick leave.

“Teachers have been vomiting, they have had their blood pressure up in the air; diabetic persons, their sugar is out of control, they have not been sleeping, their tears are flowing. I wish that persons could understand the real trauma that the teachers have been going through as a result of this,” she said, noting as well that headaches and sleeplessness were also reported.

She added that there was also a male teacher who could be hospitalised as a result of the effect of the stress suffered over time on his sciatic nerve, affecting his ability to walk.

“I really wish they could talk to the press because they feel they have gone, they have given of their best, they have held that school together in the turmoil surrounding Jeff Broomes, all the hair-brained schemes and whatever. They, perhaps to their detriment, made them look good because of the love of school. They did everything necessary to hold that school together.”

Redman further told media: “Tomorrow the union has a meeting with its lawyer to further examine its path forward. All Barbadians should be aware of the implications of these transfers for all public officers and workers as well in the private sector, if these transfers are allowed to stand in their present form… The union has also written today, a letter to the Chief Personnel Officer reiterating its willingness to meet at any time.”

The BSTU boss said she still firmly believed the action being taken through the transfers was “punitive”.

“Every single BSTU member, save one, who either wrote or gave verbal evidence at the Commission of Enquiry has been transferred. The action is therefore seen as punitive in circumstances where the commission itself has stated in the report that there has been no evidence, the teachers of the Alexandra School have not been found guilty of any breaches of the laws or regulations.”

Responding to alleged comments from the Minister of Education Ronald Jones about there being “further consequences” if the teachers continued any industrial action, Redman charged that the comments too suggested that the transfers could be termed consequences, but queried: “Consequences of what?”.

She maintained that the teachers had done nothing illegal.

“It is established that a trade union can hold meetings of its members. We have held two meetings of our members; the ministry has been informed, the boards of management of the schools involved have been informed, the principals of all schools involved have been informed. We have done what we are legally entitled to do and we have followed correct procedure.”

Redman also defended suggestion that she was pulling a party line, stating emphatically that her wearing of red was in fact in keeping with and recognition of the international colour of labour.

She said the meeting yesterday with the Congress of Trade Union and Staff Associations of Barbados went well and they expected a statement to be issued by that body shortly.

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