The issues plaguing the more than two dozen workers at the School Meals Department in Lancaster, St James should be addressed in time for the next school term.
This assurance from Acting Minister of Education Senator Lucille Moe, who said some of the problems identified were currently being solved.
Since the start of this week workers at the Lancaster location have been complaining about the heat due to a lack of fans. They have also complained about the constant breaking down of most of the equipment, dysfunctional extractor fans and that only one of seven steamers was working.
As a result, the workers, who also expressed concern about a roof with asbestos, walked off the job on Monday morning, resulting in some primary school students being served a late lunch.
As a result of the work stoppage Moe, who has been filling in for Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw, met with the workers and union officials and was apprised of the concerns.
Moe told Barbados TODAY that following the meeting and a tour of the facility, it was clear that the workers had genuine concerns that needed to be addressed.
However, she said the ministry would be taking a more proactive approach, adding that while temporary measures were being put in place including the replacement of fans, more widespread improvements were on the cards for the location during the summer months once school children go on holiday from July 5.
In addition, she said the ministry would be seeking to address other concerns across the entire school system during the summer recess.
“As you know, school will soon be out on summer vacation, which gives us a longer period to address all the myriad issues within the school system. The summer programme is normally done during the summer months because of the length of time that the schools are closed. So for structural issues and renovation issues, that is [the time] we tend to use,” she said.
In relation to the School Meals Department in Lancaster, Moe said fans were ordered and were expected to arrive on Tuesday, but that did not materialize.
“We recognized that we wont get them until today. So as a precautionary measure we did bread meals yesterday – meals that are not cooked. So that allowed the workers to go in do them and then be able to leave relatively early . . . as the day gets hotter,” she said, pointing out that today the workers used other locations to prepare cooked meals for the children.
“By today the fans should be here and the company who supplies the equipment within that centre – the steamers and things that were not working – they have received parts that they are now using to fix some of the equipment, and certainly enough of it to be able provide what needs to be done for the schools in question,” said Moe.
“So we are hoping that is completed today. That certainly is the plan. They were there since yesterday working assiduously, and so I am hoping that by today they will complete that,” she added.
Moe gave the assurance that once the school children go on holiday in a matter of weeks, then all the technical and building-related issues at Lancaster would be assessed and adequately addressed.
“We were shown some other things that were of concern. So that will now take technocrats [and] experts. I am certainly not an expert in the area of building or expert in the areas that were raised in terms of concern. But certainly, once the solution is identified then a proper remedy will be put in place,” she said.