At least three secondary schools were forced to close early today as teachers staged industrial action for the second day running.
St George Secondary School and Combermere School – both of which have been the subjects of much tension between the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) and the Ministry of Education – along with the Gtaydon Sealy Secondary School, cancelled classes from about 11a.m. because there were insufficient teachers to oversee the students.
They were the hardest hit in an apparent sick-out, as the BSTU increased pressure on the ministry over the dismissal of three teachers.
Several other schools were forced to combine classes due to the limited number of teachers at work.
In reporting yesterday on a walk-out by teachers at Combermere and St George Secondary, Barbados TODAY had quoted a source as revealing that BSTU members would not report to work today.
The BSTU, which on Wednesday threatened “very serious” action over the dismissal of the teachers, again refused to confirm whether or not the educators had engaged in industrial action, with President Mary Redman saying it was possible the teachers had fallen ill because of environmental conditions at the schools.
“I would have to ask around and see what happened. I have to do my due diligence,” Redman said, a carbon copy of the comment she made after yesterday’s walk-out.
At a news conference on Wednesday at the BSTU’s Belleville, St Michael headquarters, Redman had told the media the union would take “very serious” action in support of the three teachers, whom it contended had been “unfairly dismissed”.
The union is upset over the sacking of a St Michael School teacher, a principal at the Barbados Learning Centre and a laboratory technician at Combermere, describing their firing as textbook examples of egregious violations
of the grievance procedures by the three school boards.
Redman had said that despite the union’s best efforts to adhere to industrial relations best practices, the three cases, one of which dates back almost eight months, were no closer to being resolved, and industrial action was the only option left.
Following yesterday’s, walk-out, Minister of Education Ronald Jones had said the BSTU had not advised of any planned industrial action, even as he acknowledged that the teachers were well within their rights to take action.
“If the teachers stayed away this afternoon or do not come tomorrow it is their right. I have not any had any word from the BSTU that they would be doing any form of industrial action or sickouts, so I don’t know. I don’t even know what the grievance is.
“I will have to investigate this matter to see what is the basis of this and obviously speak to the Chief Education Officer [Karen Best], but she is currently overseas on some training exercise and she won’t be back until Monday. I would have to acquaint myself with the facts in the meantime,” Jones said yesterday.
He said even less today, telling Barbados TODAY he had “no comment to make on the matter”.
The BSTU has scheduled a meeting with its members on Monday, during which they will decide whether or not they will escalate the industrial action.