Opinion: Absenteeism

POSTED: 02/10/12 2:20 PM

Since we ended up on today’s opinion page with two work-related issues, we may as well add a third topic: absenteeism.

We’re getting to this because the president of the Windward Islands Teachers Union Witu brought up the term yesterday when she talked about the government’s apparent refusal to give teachers two days of for the French side Carnival. The teachers get the days off, that’s not the issue, but according to the union they have been scheduled for the wrong week.

If nothing changes, teachers will be off next Monday and Tuesday, whereas the Grand Parade in Marigot takes place a week later.

The way we understand it, teachers not only need a day off for the Grand Parade, they also need a second day to recover from the experience. Ah well, for people who are into Carnival celebrations this probably makes sense.

What makes a bit less sense is that the union-leader predicted yesterday a high percentage of absenteeism among teachers on the day of the Grand Parade and the day after if the government does not change the dates for the days off.

If we understand this correctly, the union is saying: we’ll take the two days off next week, even though they are on the wrong dates, and if this remains like this, many teachers will take another two days off the following week so that they are able to attend the Carnival celebrations in Marigot and have a day for recovery.

We find this a bit rich. Of course, the government could have come out a long time ago to settle this matter; after all, the union already brought it to the attention of the education department on January 12.

That is (we took a calendar and counted) 29 days ago if we include today. How long could it take for a simple decision to change the dates for these two days off? We figure three minutes would do the trick – and 29 days contain 41,760 minutes. Okay, that includes weekends and the figure is based on 24 hours per day, but even if we counted half of this number, there would still be more than 20,000 minutes left to write a 3-minute letter.

The civil service and our ministries work every now and then in mysterious ways – there is no other way to put this. In good old-fashioned St. Maarten style, we expect that an email with the changed dates will go out to the teachers and their unions today around five minutes to five.

That’s the way to go if the government wants to prevent having teacher-less classrooms further down the road. It would also prevent the need for an energy-consuming and pointless discussion about no work no pay. After all, the education ministry has allowed this situation to become an issue, and the teachers could rightly argue: I told you so. (Though this does not mean that staying away from work is the right thing to do).

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