President of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT), Sean Spencer is pushing back on claims by Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw, that his union failed to formally report the environmental concerns at Milton Lynch Primary, which apparently led to a two-day sickout by teachers.
This afternoon, Spencer told Barbados TODAY that if the minister was in the dark, it was because his union was denied the opportunity to broach the issue.
“The meeting that the minister was referring to was a courtesy meeting and we were told that we were not getting into the meat of matters,” said Spencer, who revealed that “to the best of his knowledge teachers were back on the job today.”
Yesterday, Minister Bradshaw told Barbados TODAY that she met with the BUT as recently as last month, but none of these issues was raised then.
“What I can tell you is that back in January I would have met with Mr Spencer, President of the BUT, and the issue of the Milton Lynch School was raised in relation to some roofing issues we had earlier in the year. No other environmental issues had been raised at that time nor any other concerns in relation to that specific school. So, the ministry has not been alerted formally as it relates to any outstanding issues,” said Bradshaw.
But the BUT president also referred to another meeting late last year with the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Education, when the issues at Milton Lynch were on the agenda. However, Spencer charged that at that meeting they were told that work was to begin at the school.
“We had that preliminary meeting chaired by the Permanent Secretary on the 22nd of November and looking at the agenda, it states among other issues, Milton Lynch health and safety. When we got to the topic of Milton Lynch, the Chief Education Officer said ‘don’t worry about Milton Lynch, work starting tomorrow’.
She did not specify nor did she articulate any further, so we decided to leave it at that,” said Spencer, who added that the school’s issues go back many years.
The trade unionist vowed that in light of the minister’s comments, in future meetings with the Ministry of Education, the BUT would not be taking cursory responses but would instead be “forceful in fully articulating its concerns, ensuring that they are wrestled to the ground.”
Spencer said he believes that in the short term, staff at the Christ Church school will feel a little more comfortable if the school was industrially cleaned.
Yesterday, Minister Bradshaw explained that in this financial year, which ends on March 31, the Ministry of Education had spent over $50,000 in relation to various works at the school. Those monies were spent on issues such as termite control, industrial cleaning and roof repair. She contended that the eight-month-old administration is doing its best to grapple with the needs at school plants across the systems, which have not been maintained for years.
In the meantime, the minister revealed that a potential cow-itch problem at the school had been referred to the Ministry of Health for resolution. Additionally, construction on water tanks at the school has been restricted to weekend work only, as the machinery used to cut steel was also identified by the principal as a problem.
However, Spencer while he welcomed the curtailing of construction during school time, he questioned why the minister had not extended the same courtesy to other schools that were having these tanks built. “That is not the only school that these tanks are being built at. So, if you are doing it for one school then one would think it prudent to extend that courtesy to the staff at other schools where these tanks are being built,’ he stressed.