President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) Mary Redman is refuting claims that nepotism played a part in the union’s response to the alleged unfair dismissal of three of its members.
One of BSTU members at the centre of the dispute is believed to be Redman’s son, giving rise to concerns that teachers may have found themselves in the middle of a personal grudge match between the union and the St Michael School (SMS) board.
While classes at SMS appeared to have continued normally last Friday, at least three other secondary schools, Combermere, Graydon Sealy Secondary and St George Secondary, were forced to close early as teachers staged industrial action, a day after they had walked off at around 1 p.m. claiming to have had appointments.
The BSTU was upset over the sacking of an SMS 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.
Monday morning an adamant Redman refused to confirm or deny the claim that he son was involved, preferring instead to question the relevance of the argument.
“Let us say that is so, how is it a conflict of interest? As long as the person is a paying member of the union from day one, the person is not supposed to receive representation because they are related to me? I don’t see that is of any relevance,” she said.
The teachers’ advocate told Barbados TODAY all of her members were fully aware of the detail of all the cases and they had decided to support all three members.
“All the facts of the case have been made aware to the union members since the first week in September. All the union members are committed to the case because the persons are paying members of the BSTU and are entitled to representation like any other member,” the BSTU president explained, while also arguing that the only question of impropriety which could arise from a relationship with the member in question was one of victimization by the school’s board.
“In my mind the only considerations from any relationship with the president would be whether or not the person was being victimized because of the president,” Redman said.
The union has summoned members to an urgent meeting Tuesday to discuss the next steps.
“Remember, we made a commitment that 2017 will be a year of stepped up action by our union,” Public Relations Officer Carseen Greenidge said in a note to the membership.