Answer please

I am writing to your newspaper in the hopes that my letter would be published in a week day edition and result in some answers from the authorities which have placed my family under siege for the last six months.

I am an employee of the Alexandra School, clerk/typist specifically and have been since November 1999 and appointed in February 2001.

I was appointed to act as secretary/treasurer on July 6, 2012 for the period July 2 to 3 August 2012, while the person who was acting secretary/treasurer since October 2011 was on vacation and after I wrote to the Ministry of Education informing the permanent secretary that no Secretary/Treasurer was in place and I had not received any instruction from the board as to my responsibilities in the interim other than a letter I found on the desk offering me an acting appointment as executive officer for the same period.

This was the first time I was ever asked to act as secretary/treasurer and there was no handover information. I handed back over to her on her first day back at work by way of a memo and proceeded on vacation leave for the period August 6 to 31, 2012.

On Thursday August 9, 2012 I received a summons to witness in the Commission on Enquiry into Alexandra School on Friday August 10 at 9 a.m. At about 7 p.m. I received a telephone call from an inspector advising that I was no longer required and that I would be informed of another date. I was never recalled.

Please note that I had already given written evidence to the enquiry prior to the summons. I received a letter signed by the acting secretary/treasurer dated August 14, 2012 inviting me to attend a meeting with the deputy chairman on August 15, 2012 at 8:30 a.m. to discuss “some important operational matters in the board office”.

I did not attend the meeting but informed the secretary/treasurer by phone that I was unable to attend. However, on my first day back at work on September 3, 2012, I received a letter signed for the chairman dated August 31, 2012 instructing me to proceed on “special/administrative leave” until further notice” and on half pay.

I responded in a letter dated September 4, 2012, querying the circumstances of the action, copied it to the NUPW and Ministry of Education. There was no reply from the board and the [a senior officer] in the ministry explained to me by phone that they were advised not to get involved since it was a board matter and that I had representation.

However, in response to a letter dated September 24 from my attorney, counsel for the board wrote a letter dated September 28 stating that I was acting secretary/treasurer “at the time of [my] being sent on leave” and that it was “impossible for a proper investigation to be conducted while [I] remained in [my] position”. The letter did not state why my pay was cut by half.

My acting appointment ended on August 3 reverting me back to clerk/typist during my vacation and I explained this to the general secretary of the NUPW. I received another letter dated December 7, 2012 requesting that I attend a disciplinary hearing to investigate a number of matters. This was postponed at the request of my attorney, who also requested a “mutually agreeable date”.

Despite this, I received another letter to attend a disciplinary hearing on February 19, 2013 to investigate the charges brought against me, which I had to inform both the union and my attorney of, leaving me with the assumption that the date was not mutually agreed to as requested.

This was also postponed, this time by the union who requested February 25 instead. However, both the attorney and union rep were on their way to the meeting on February 25 when they were informed that it was off and I would be advised of another date.

I would like to know why the Ministry of Education did not intervene, since it is my understanding that the board is answerable to the minister. I would also like the board to explain why I am being punished, while they investigate charges which I have not answered nor been found guilty of.

I am also puzzled as to why I have been charged before an investigation since their letters imply that they are now beginning to investigate. Why did the union allow this sanction to continue for six months and counting when the explanation given by the board through its attorney is contradictory to my actual employment?

How long will it be now until another hearing is called, leaving me with $127.59 a month with which to support a family of five minor children? Why has this matter not been referred to the law courts for restoration of my salary?

I have asked these questions for the most part, and more to the union, attorney and ministry in vain and think that I deserve answers under my employment rights.

To make matters worse for my family, Roger Broomes, who is the father of my two youngest children, was terminated from Alexandra School since January of this year, with no stated reason for termination. He is registered for unemployment benefits, but during his interview, was apparently told that his benefits cannot be paid until the department ascertains the reason for his termination.

This is now seven weeks into unemployment for him and it is excruciatingly difficult for us to maintain our family of five minor children, and with living expenses in high arrears and creditors becoming increasingly impatient.

If the month of April finds us in this position, I am afraid that we may be homeless and hungry, since the generous assistance of family and friends has expired because of their own strained obligations.

— Stasia Boyce

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