By RIEL MAJOR
Tribune Staff Reporter
BAHAMAS Union of Teachers president Belinda Wilson accused Education Minister Jeff Lloyd of not being forthcoming about the issues at Carlton Francis Primary School and CH Reeves Junior High.
Speaking to reporters outside Church of God of Prophecy on Friday, Mrs Wilson said Mr Lloyd is disingenuous, adding BUT followed all the steps that were laid out in the union’s grievance procedures. She said the minister needs to “speak the truth”.
She said: “When we talked about Carlton Francis School, I can produce for you documentation from October 2017 with the list of grievances and concerns that the teachers would have encountered with the principal and even other matters pertaining to their teaching, learning and the campus.
“Mr Lloyd is quite aware that we would have written not only to Mr Lloyd, the minister of education, prior to Mr Lloyd even coming we have documentation to the former permanent secretary, to the former director. And since 2017 to present we’ve written to the acting director, Marcellus Taylor, to the permanent secretary, Lorraine Armbrister, to the honourable minister, Jeffrey Lloyd.”
She added: “The first step was to write to the principal and make the concerns clear to her. The principal would have had five days to reply to the teachers. She has not replied to the teachers hence we are where we are at. I must say that I’m disappointed in Mr Lloyd who is allowing the acting director to instruct principals and in particular Carlton Francis school to call the police for teachers and this is now the seventh week that teachers are showing up to school and told by police officers, security officers and the principal that they cannot enter the gate.”
Mrs Wilson said her union is prepared to take legal steps to have the issues at the Carlton Francis Primary School resolved. The teachers there have been agitating for the school’s principal to be removed.
“We will not sit by and allow our teachers to be mistreated and to be handled inhumanely. It is our intention to take whatever legal steps we have to take to have the Carlton Francis Primary School matter resolved and must I say I also sought to get the information to write to the United Nations and always to the International Labour Organisation for the manner in which our teachers are being handled at Carlton Francis,” she said.
“We are still in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas where we have rights. We have the freedom of expression. We have the freedom to assemble and those rights and freedoms are being threatened at Carlton Francis Primary School.”
As it relates to CH Reeves Junior High, the union leader said Mr Lloyd is not telling the full story on the issue.
She said: “CH Reeves is one of the schools that I was invited by the prime minister and the Cabinet of the Bahamas in August for us to do a walkabout. CH Reeves was one of the schools that was incomplete, and we had a date of September 15 for CH Reeves construction to be completed.
“Up to today the construction workers are still there working. (In) the classrooms, yes, there was mould, there was testing for the mould. He would have sent our mould samples into Florida where the results came back stating yes mould presence was in CH Reeves School. We have already had a strike certificate in hand for CH Reeves.
“We did a strike vote on December 7, 2018, so is Mr Jeffrey Lloyd on earth or (is he) in space? We have dealt with CH Reeves’ matter at the Labour Department last year March and April, we have met with Minister Lloyd on numerous occasions dealing with CH Reeves and Carlton Francis Primary School.”
Mrs Wilson added: “Tell Mr Lloyd to tell the truth or else we are going to expose him. What they need to do is deal with the acting director, Marcellus Taylor . . .Teachers are human beings and we have rights and we will not stand by and allow the benefits that we have already fought for (be taken away).”
Last Tuesday, Mr Lloyd expressed disappointment in teachers at CH Reeves for continued protests.
Speaking to reporters outside Cabinet, Mr Lloyd said his ministry is seeking to resolve whatever outstanding issues the teachers have.
He said: “I’m advised that there were concerns with regards to classroom space. That matter, I’m advised, has been resolved. I was also advised that teachers were unhappy about having to float. . . from one classroom to the next. I understand that matter too is being resolved. The principal, along with the district superintendent and our main offices, are seeking to address that.”
He added that he is “painfully disappointed” that the processes outlined for disagreements between union members and the Ministry of Education were not followed in this case.
Mr Lloyd said if the industrial agreement in question is no longer serving its purpose, all parties need to sit down and come to a new agreement.
“This is deeply troubling; it is troubling because, one, we have an agreement. That agreement should be respected, if that agreement and its terms no longer serve the purpose for which it was originally intended and it does not serve those purposes today, they’re adults, we are reasonable, intelligent and smart people,” he said.