Frost: Deal brokenAttorneys Vernon Smith (right) and Hal Gollop confer while Gollop’s assistant Saffron Griffith reads the day’s news. (Picture by Lennox Devonish.)
By Ricky Jordan | Thu, August 16, 2012 - 12:05 AM
The Speech Day criticism of a teacher accused of not teaching a class for an entire term was not the final straw.
This was the conclusion late yesterday of lawyers for the Alexandra School Commission of Inquiry following evidence given by veteran trade unionist Patrick Frost, who said the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) led 30 teachers on strike in January because of the breach of a union agreement by principal Jeff Broomes and the failure by the Ministry of Education and Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) to act on it.
Frost’s evidence has implications for the commission itself and for Broomes, whose lawyers Vernon Smith, QC, and Cecil McCarthy, QC, have been saying from Day 1 that the strike by the BSTU was illegal because Broomes’ speech day criticism of a senior teacher should have been dealt with as a personal dispute between two Government employees and not by a striking trade union, since it did not breach terms or conditions of employment.
However, Frost was at pains to explain, while being questioned by Smith, that the strike action was not taken solely because of the principal’s criticism of the teacher but because the speech had broken a longstanding union agreement that frowns upon principals criticizing teachers publicly, and because the CPO failed to respond to the union’s request for an urgent meeting afterwards.
Frost added that this failure by the CPO as well as the Ministry of Education to act on this breach of industrial relations protocol led to the strike on January 4.
Senior counsel for the commission, Milton Pierce, also admitted on the inquiry’s 28th day at the Gymnasium of the Garfield Sobers Complex: “Mr Frost has said that the speech on December 2, 2011, might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, but it was certainly not what led to the union taking industrial action.”
Pierce also told sole Commissioner Frederick Waterman: “The CPO took a position that if there is a dispute between employee and employee, then there is a grievance procedure which should be followed. However, the union has taken the position that this is a breach of an agreement that resulted in industrial action. If that is so then, Sir, I’m submitting that it does not fall within the remit of the commission.”
The commission’s remit is “to inquire into the cause or causes in 2011 which led to the breakdown of relations between the principal of the Alexandra School, St Peter, and members of the teaching staff; and which further led to industrial action being taken”.
- Editor's Choice