President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) Mary Redman has offered a strong defence of Combermere School Senior Teacher Reverend Charles Morris, who has been charged with breaching General Orders and the Public Service Act.
Morris was summoned to a disciplinary hearing before the Ministry of Education after he spoke publicly about the environmental problems at Combermere in a recent interview with Barbados TODAY, during which he also called for the removal of Principal Vere Parris. Morris was a no show for the scheduled hearing last week, with Redman explaining that he was on sick leave.
Addressing the union’s Annual General Meeting at Queen’s College this morning, the BSTU president said the controversial senior teacher had nothing to fear because he had done nothing wrong.
“I do not know that Morris has committed an offence. The correspondence to Morris says ‘might’ and ‘may’ and the fact is from what I have read, there is nothing said that went against public policy or Morris having criticized educational policy in a public forum.
“Not only that he was speaking as a union officer about environmental conditions that were affecting him, other members of the staff and the student body,” Redman explained.
The union boss sent a strong reminder to the ministry that as an officer of a trade union Morris enjoyed certain exemptions from punishment once he steered clear of Government policy on education.
In her speech, Redman focused “an environment of increasing hostility” in which the union operated last year, charging that this hostility came from both Government and the wider society.
She noted as an example, the controversial “sweetie wrapper” episode at Springer Memorial Secondary School, claiming that persons who were ignorant of the facts had vilified the teachers and the principal.
The union boss also suggested that persons within the Ministry of Education had been disrespecting the teachers.
“We see persons in authority failing to act either in a manner consistent with industrial best practice or in a manner that is expeditious, proactive or respectful to our needs.
“Meetings that we sought in some instances for two years now have not been scheduled. This has meant that many important issues surrounding the well-being of teachers and students in the system are not being addressed,” Redman complained.