Industrial Climate In Barbados Heats Up As a General Election Approaches

Thanks to traditional media for helping us to do a pulse check of the industrial climate in Barbados today (7 January 2013).

  • The Barbados Workers Union (BWU) has threatened to shut down the country if LIME refuse to return to the negotiating table after sending home 97 workers last week.
  • Jeff Broomes has been reported to be on sick leave suffering from hypertension and did not report to his new posting today.
  • BSTU reports that the 18 teachers will report to headquarters until the ministry of education withdraw the transfer letters.

Poor Judgment by Public Service Commission

Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

The supposed conclusion to the long-running Alexandra debacle appears to have caused more problems than it would have solved. Some might argue, and I am tempted to agree, that the resolution imposed by the Public Service Commission (PSC) has solved nothing. It would appear that the PSC attempted to settle the internecine warfare that was being waged for years by awarding neither side a victory.

The cowardly solution has resulted in over twenty teachers, including all but one of Alexandra’s management team, being transferred and scattered throughout the Teaching Service. It has proven to be unpopular with a majority of those involved in this unsightly mess. Also, it would appear that the PSC did not consider or paid blatant disregard to the harm their actions would be inflicting on the students who are about to take examinations. The teachers will get over the effects of the transfers with time; but the harm inflicted on the children is potentially devastating on those 4th, 5th and 6th form students whose future could very well be affected.

The harm to the education system and the children aside, the justice system in this country could be irreparably damaged by the fallout from the ill-advised actions of the PSC. The Waterman Commission made recommendations for limited transfers, but unfortunately, the PSC went overboard and transferred/punished most, if not all, of the teachers that appeared before the commission of inquiry as witnesses.

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Alexandra School: "Separation" and Sacrifice

Submitted by Yardbroom
Ronald Jordan reacts to his transfer to Alexandra - Image credit - Nation

Ronald Jordan reacts to his transfer to Alexandra – Image credit Nation

I wonder how many of those teachers, who assiduously canvassed for the Head to be “separated” from the school, thought that they too would be separated, and if they did, why did they fight with such alacrity [eagerness]?…I have only posed a question.

The general idea from the present Government’s perspective was to solve a major problem and this up to a point they have done. The main players are no longer at the school, the school has an opportunity to do what it is mandated to do…teach children and thus move on.

Many of the major participants will never be the force they once were and some at the end of careers, will be remembered for things they would rather forget.

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Alexandra Solution or Confusion?

Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me – Pastor Martin Niemoeller

They have come for Jeff Broomes, and as a trade unionist, I must speak out before they come for me. From the outset, let me state that I am not defending Broomes because I think that he is guiltless. In Barbados, everyone, even Jeff Broomes, is innocent until he pleads guilty or guilt is established after a duly constituted body makes that determination after hearing the evidence, and giving the accused the right to be heard. I am therefore concerned that the Public Service Commission (PSC) has taken steps against him, under the guise of a transfer, before it follows the rules in order to establish his guilt or innocence.

The Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) has achieved its goal of separating the Principal from Alexandra School; but they have nothing to rejoice about when you consider the way it was done. I hope that the membership of the union is sensible enough to condemn the method that was adopted by the PSC. BSTU should vociferously disassociate itself from the denial of due process to Mr. Broomes. Even murderers who kill in front of witnesses are given the right to be heard before sentence is pronounced. In essence, he has fewer rights than a murderer.

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Ministry of Education Summons BSTU To Hastily Arranged Meeting Which Provoked ‘The Letter’

Laurie King, Chief Education Officer

As promised BU produces the letter in its original form which the BSTU sent to the Chief Education Officer arising from a ‘secret meeting’ under his chairmanship. It does not matter how anyone tries to interpret the letter, to any competent person (counsel), the threat and inference is crystal clear. If one compares what is stated in the last paragraph of the letter attached to what was reported in the Nation today, “BSTU first vice-president Erskine Padmore said again yesterday that his members would resume work as scheduled pending the findings of the Waterman Commission Of Inquiry, set up to look into affairs at The Alexandra School.” The BU family can draw one sensible conclusion.

Can anyone explain anyway why the Chief Education Officer Laurie King held a secret meeting with the BSTU immediately following the COI – at a cost of $600,000.00 – which was expressly established to to make the AX Mess a transparent affair? Let us forget about the decision by Commissioner Waterman to hold the COI summations of counsel in camera.

BU raises AGAIN the question of conflict of interest by Keith Simmons, a member of the Public Service Commission – employer of those employed at Alexandra School – and also the chairman of the management committee of Alexandra School. When it was suggested to him by counsel that he was in conflict of interest in holding both those posts, he replied that he was not and if a conflict arose, he would recuse himself from one or the other. Why can’t he see his roles as being improper and that by holding both posts and being privy to confidential information from both, he is in conflict of interest? What manner of lawyer is entitled to wear silk in Barbados again?

  • See letter sent to Chief Education Officer Parts 1,2

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The AX Matter Moves To The Next Phase

Commissioner Frederick Waterman – Photo Credit: Nation

The final arguments from lawyers representing all parties in the Alexandra School Dispute have been submitted and Barbadians await the report from lone Commissioner Frederick Waterman. It is obviously the report will be delivered before the September school term begins.

There was a sense by BU during the last two weeks of the Inquiry that it was hurried along; and for an obvious reason. The  first school term is scheduled to begin on the 10 September 2012 and given known timelines the Waterman Report will be late. Therefore the 64k question is – what will be the next phase of the AX Affair?

It is early days yet to evaluate the performance of the Alexandra Commission. However, BU is concerned the Commissioner made some questionable decisions which will impact the quality of the final report.  For example, it is understood from our sources that the aunt of Miss X whom we reported on another blog the student in the transcript affair was to go to live in the USA to facilitate school there, was in Barbados and prepared to give evidence. BU understands she was seized with interesting bits of information as a result of her visit to the school to which Miss X was to attend and where the transcript was allegedly sent by the secretary. Our source has advised that she had proof no such transcript was received by the US school. A reasonable conclusion to be made, the transcript was never sent. We have been reliably advised that Commissioner Waterman refused to allow this witness to be called.

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The Alexandra School Conspiracy EXPOSED

Deputy Principal Beverley Neblett-Lashley (l) Commissioner Frederick Waterman (c) Former Secretary Merlene Sealey (r) – the two women at the centre of the ‘transcript affair’.

On August 25, 2012 BU family member, the venerable Yardbroom, a posted the following comment:

“Reports are that Mr. Vernon Smith QC “RECALLED” Alexandra’s Deputy Principal Beverley Neblett-Lashley and Former Secretary Merlene Sealey to give evidence again before the COI. It is alleged after which “Smith, who questioned the deputy Principal and former secretary, then submitted that there was no evidence before the Commission proving that the allegations against Broomes were true.”

Do you know what questions were asked of them and what their responses were?”

BU tapped its legal resources for an answer and the following is what has been reported to us.

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Notes From a Native Son: Alexandra School is a Metaphor for Failure of a System

Hal Austin

The crisis at Alexandra School, being played out before the nation, is but a reflection of the generally meltdown in education in Barbados. Although the Inquiry itself may be the public humiliation of a man, his stubbornness and the notorious Barbadian culture of spite and vindictiveness, the message it sends to the rest of the world is not a very nice one.

There are two broad reasons for this symptom of decline: first, the authorities have failed to make education as attractive professionally as law or medicine and, therefore, have not seen it necessary to spend a reasonable share of GDP on education, nor to attract the best graduates, because they do not appreciate its central importance in the future development of the nation.

Second, there is a traditional policy of promoting the longest serving and best connected person, rather than the most competent and best able. We must skip a generation in order to professionalise teaching. Following on from this is a lack of proper training provisions for teachers at all grades, and especially head teachers, who are not only the senior teachers in schools, but also the chief executive of the enterprise.

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Jeff Broomes Should Beg for Forgiveness

Submitted by Mahogany Coconut Think Tank/Watch Dog Group

Jeff Broomes, Principal of Alexandra School

From the very beginning, Mahogany Coconut had determined that Mr. Jeff Broomes should have been separated and or fired from the post of headmaster at the Alexandra School.

We need to root out professionals such as Broomes from all positions they hold in the public sector and quasi government organizations. They are the bad apples that rotten the whole barrel.

Everyday thousands of: teachers, firemen, policemen/women, sanitation workers, soil technicians, maids, parks and beaches workers and others, go to work and execute their tasks with great pride and gratitude.

However, we have hundreds of professionals such as Broomes, who with devilish accuracy, spend their time behaving like laws unto themselves, usually with the direct support of the decadent party system that now invades our beloved island state. These BLP/DLP yard fowls and assorted sycophants are bigger and deadlier threats to Barbados than any downgrade from Standard and Poor.

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The Alexandra School Commission Of Inquiry – Part II

Jeff Broomes, Headmaster of Alexandra School

The Alexandra School Commission of Inquiry continues to enjoy rap attention of Barbadians. In response to requests BU starts Part II of The Alexandra School Commission Of Inquiry to ensure commenters are not inconvenienced by the burgeoning comments.

The Parliament of Barbados voted today (24/07/2012) to allocate $598,000 to pay for the Inquiry.

Commission of Inquiry: Rule of Law, What a Joke!

Caswell Franklyn, Head of Unity Workers Union

By now Prime Minister Freundel Stuart should have re-read the relevant sections of the Constitution, the Public Service Act and the Commission of Inquiry Act and realised that he has seriously blundered in his handling of the industrial relations problems at the Alexandra School. He is sticking tenaciously to his explanation that he acted in accordance with the rule of law, but he did not go on to say which law.

I have done a diligent search and I have been unable to discover the particular rule of law that allowed the Prime Minister to intervene in a matter that involved allegations of misconduct by a public officer. Instead, I have found every reason why he should have steered clear of the now infamous Alexandra debacle. Judging from the state of the economy, he had better things to do than usurp the role that was already bestowed on others by the Constitution. It is enough to quote section 94 (1) of the Constitution to show who is responsible for disciplinary matters in the Public Service:

94 (1) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, power to make appointments to public offices and to remove and exercise disciplinary control over persons holding or acting in such offices is hereby vested in the Governor-General, acting in accordance with the advice of the Public Service Commission.

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Alexandra School – The Way Forward

The wonderful sight of teacher and pupil reunited at the Alexandra School - Photo credit Barbados Advocate

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.

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Notes From a Native Son: A Cautionary Tale Of An Education System In Decline, Alexandra Impasse The Symptom

Hal Austin

What is Barbados coming to when in the early years of the 21st century a small group of teachers can walk out of a school on the grounds that they do not like the head’s management style and his competence as an administrator?

What is even more scandalous is that government and trade unions are taking this rag bag of activists seriously and crippling the education of some of our brightest young people, the very future of Barbados. In the midst of all this our prime minister remains embarrassingly dumb, unable to even call a successful meeting of both sides.

Of course, the obvious action is to give the teachers a deadline to return to the classroom and start teaching the pupils, and set a date for serious discussions of their grievances. But it must be made clear in no uncertain terms that no matter what they think of the head’s management style, it is not a striking issue. We cannot replace one perceived sense of bullying with another, because one side is shouting louder than the other.

The crisis at the Alexandra School also exposes the inability of the minister of education to deliver on his duties, and the street-fighting bullying tactics of a small clique of trade unions. Those of us who are big supporters of and active trade unions can only look on in amazement as a major union, not involved in the silly show of strength at the school, has now thrown its considerable weight behind its sister union.

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The Alexandra Matter: The Role Of The CPO and NUPW

Dennis Clarke, General Secretary (l) Walter Maloney, President (r) NUPW 'Big Boys'

Nearly two weeks have passed since the BSTU instituted action against the principal of the Alexandra School Jeff Broome. Up to late yesterday [14 Jan 2012] there appeared to be no resolution to the matter. A meeting held under the chairmanship of Minister of Education Ronald Jones only served to proved BU’s position, management systems in Barbados have become seriously compromised as a result of incestuous practices by  stakeholders.

It is clear the BSTU Executive believes so strongly in their cause that they are prepared to disrupt the relatively calm industrial relations climate in Barbados even if the children have to be made to suffer in the process. Their position is further demonstrated by a deliberate move away from following ‘normal’ grievance procedure. Regrettably the matter is deliberately being waged in the court of public opinion. While there are advantages to enticing public support sometimes, it should be done based on the full facts of the matter being revealed. It is evident that the cause of the industrial action by the BSTU is as a result of grievances which have been poorly managed over the years and left to fester. The speech day incident appears to be the straw which broke the camel’s back.

If we are to believe the underground chatter there is more to the mortar than the pestle. If local media intends to give honest coverage to this matter the public deserves to be seized of relevant information. If this is not possible because of legal considerations then the honourable thing is to avoid inflammatory reports like those we have been reading in the NATION for the past week.

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Alexandra School Dispute – Who Shall Lead The Children?

Submitted by Chuckles

Mary Redman, BSTU President

I would like to divert a bit and ask you [Caswell Franklyn] to make your services available to the BSTU/Mary Redman. What is this woman doing to the school children at the Alexandra School?

I was a member of the BWU for about 18 months before I left these shores to take up employment overseas. The first thing the Late Sir Frank Walcott told a group of new members of which I was one, was that the Union doesn’t go on strike until it gets public sympathy and support. Where did this woman do her trade-unionism training? A few weeks ago she was all over the news media trying to defend the indefensible i.e a teacher submitting SBA studies late to the CXC resulting in all the students failing the subject. Today teachers at the institution wouldn’t be in the classroom due to a dispute between her union members and the principal. The biggest Trade Union, NUPW isn’t backing her and from all reports the BUT members not losing a day’s pay over a non-issue.