By RIEL MAJOR
THE Bahamas Union of Teachers has requested a strike vote for its members due to lingering issues, including concerns over mould, at C H Reeves Junior High School.
At a press conference yesterday, BUT acting president Joan Knowles-Turnquest said teachers have operated in good faith despite their many challenges. She said the teachers were presented with a show-cause letter by officials to explain their initial reasons to sit out.
The BUT has filed a trade dispute with the Department of Labour over the issue.
“A walk-about inspection was done by the Department of Labour to ascertain if mould is present, however the results of this walk-about have not been revealed to the union to date,” she said.
“Consequently, BUT wishes to advise that upon request of the members of C H Reeves Junior High School, a letter requesting a strike vote has been sent to the minister of labour, requesting the same,” said Ms Knowles-Turnquest.
Ms Knowles-Turnquest said the union stands in solidarity with its members in addressing the unhealthy and unsafe working environment and wants the Ministry of Education to correct the malfunctions that exist at the school and to revoke the show-cause letters presented to the teachers.
“To date work has ceased at the school and teachers are working in substandard conditions,” she said. “Classes are being held outside and under a pavilion, four individual classes are packed into the school’s auditorium.
“Teachers have broken out with skin diseases, upper respiratory ailments, we had a few miscarriages, and God knows what else is out there that we are not addressing,” she claimed. “These are hardworking and dedicated teachers who are working (under) conditions that are unhealthy and hazardous to their health. I think health is more important than anything else. We have students getting sick and we have teachers getting sick so we stand in unison with our teachers,” Ms Knowles-Turnquest said.
Vernon Rodgers, BUT area vice-president of New Providence, said: “One of the major problems is the roof that is leaking...there are some chemicals in the roof that we are not aware of and the ministry cannot give us any answers. The (chemical) drips on them and it burns their skin, sclerosis, teachers’ thyroid glands swollen because of the environment.
“The teachers and the unions have questions and the government has yet to give any answers.”
Nearly two weeks ago Education Minister Jeff Lloyd said teachers and students had returned to C H Reeves after a two-week sit out was conducted by teachers.
Before this, Mr Lloyd said the Ministry of Education requested the assistance of Anthony Ryan of the Environmental Monitoring Risk Assessment Division in the Department of Environmental Health, who assessed the school’s affected classrooms, finding what he described as recognised environmental concerns, including dust and accumulated dirt. He subsequently formulated a prescription to rectify those issues, Mr Lloyd said, adding that a contractor was immediately hired to conduct the remediation process. This included the removal of mildew, the cleaning of dust on ceiling beams, and the cleaning of air-conditioning units, window sills and elsewhere.
Other contractors made repairs to a leaky roof and to faulty toilets in one of the female students’ bathrooms, the minister said.