The Alexandra Incestuous Factor
Minister Jones, visibly shaken and angry, termed the no-show a “gross insult” and the low point of industrial relations practice in the trade union history of Barbados. Mrs Karen Best, president of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT), reportedly said she had never seen anything like it in industrial relations. Her [Best] comments clearly indicate her union will not support the BSTU. For the first time that I can remember, there is a split among five unions – the BSTU and Barbados Workers Union (BWU) on one side, the BUT, BAPPSS and NUPW on the other
It seems to be finally hitting home to Barbadians – especially the political partisans – that the Alexandra School dispute (AX) is not so easy to resolve after all. The Frederick Waterman headed commission of inquiry was suppose to wash away the problem which all have to admit predates this government coming to office.
One view of the AX matter which BU has not put under full scrutiny is the incestuous nature of the relationships of key decision makers and participants in the AX plot. Barbados we know is a small country and there is an inevitability about how personal relationships can shape public perception about how decisions are taken.
Key players in the AX Mess are Principal Jeff Broomes, Minister Ronald Jones, and Deputy Chief Education Officer Karen Best who are ALL products of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT). To complete the BUT connection we should declare that current President of the Barbados Union of Teachers is Pedro Shepherd who recently challenged for the Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) nomination in St. Michael South East.
Of special interest to BU is the recent appointment of Karen Best who has responsibility for schools.
‘Ingredients’ for a cabal you think? It gets better.
Chairman of the Alexandra School governing body is Keith Simmons who is Deputy Chairman of the Public Service Commission. Keith Simmons admits to being closed friends with Jeff Broomes although – according to his testimony at the COI – the relationship soured during his tenure as Chairman of the AX Board. Keith Simmons is also a former minister in a DLP government.
Jeff Broomes is represented in the current industrial relations impasse by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), one of two unions. The president and general secretary Walter Maloney and Dennis Clarke respectively are known to be ‘liming buddies’ and some say ‘fraternity brothers’ with Minister Jones.
Finally another key player is Hal Gollop the legal counsel for the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU). Interesting because he admits to being a close friend of the Prime Minister. How has Gollop been able to balance his role as BSTU counsel and obvious confidant of Prime Minister Stuart some have begun to question.
It is general knowledge in Barbados that Broomes, Best, Jones, Griffith-Watson et al all exchange visits at a personal level and have eaten from the same pot some may go further to say. A big reason for the current state of play is the inbred relationships which have featured to appoint several players to positions in education which many argue challenge their level of competence.
It is T2 to Monday and the pupils continue to play a minor roles in the AX Saga. What is playing out at Alexandra exposes a crisis of leadership in Barbados. Examples can be seen in the judiciary, parliament, private sector and general society.