It was evident to the most discerning when the Alexandra School issue reared its head – Alexandra School Dispute – Who Shall Lead The Children? – that the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) had reached the end of its tether fuelled by how past grievances were managed by the ministry of education. Many Barbadians became outraged that the ministry of education would have allowed the Alexandra dispute to become so protracted, six years and counting. Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Trade Union who possesses an above average knowledge of the workings of the public service posited that the – Alexandra School Impasse: [was] A Massive Failure Of Public Service Administration. He produced the PUBLIC SERVICE ACT 2007 – 41 with Amendment to support his view.
In fact when the BSTU departed from the heavily trodden path of grievance procedure and withheld labour which resulted in 30 Alexandra teachers on the picket line, acute discernment was unnecessary as to what was required. When the BSTU mobilized around a cry for the separation of Principal Broomes from the school it was obvious Houston had a problem. If that was not enough to spur all concerned into action, information revealed last week that the ministry of education was in possession of an inspection document for several months only served to confirm the lethargy and incompetence with which the fractured industrial relations climate at Alexandra Secondary School was allowed to descend.
Finally when a ministerial committee was constituted chaired by Minister of Education Ronald Jones, BU commentators knew it would have been in vain – “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”. The BSTU had travelled that road before and was known to have lost confidence in Minister Ronald Jones. The Prime Minister would have to intervene which is consonant with how IR disputes are resolved in Barbados anyway.
After 20 days of strike action Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart finally intervened on the weekend. The objective was to get the striking teachers teachers back to work. He achieved the objective a result complimented by Caswell Franklyn. It was obvious from early in the impasse – confirmed by Sir Roy Trotman after the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) gave its support to the BSTU – that there would be no perfect solution to the Alexandra dispute. Prime Minister Stuart got the teachers to return to work and more than hinted that the job of righting the wrongs at the school had to be started. It is regrettable that many Barbadians have not seen Stuart’s action for what it is i.e. getting the teachers back to the classroom.
BU agrees 100% with the Prime Minister that we live in a barbecue pig tail era where form too often seems to trump substance. Imagine BU’s surprise to hear President Walter Maloney expressing concern about the students being roped into the dispute. Why the hell did he not come out when it was happening and condemn it at that time? Why did Winston Crichlow, the head of the principals association feel constrain to comment after the Prime Minister got the teachers to return to the classroom, a prerequisite to moving the matter forward? Why did the Alexandra Parents Teachers feel they had to issue a statement to the press and demand that teachers and the ministry of education make an action plan available to them about making up the lost hours?
They all need to shut the hell up and allow Prime Minister to deliver what he has promised!