Teachers suffer from work-related illnesses

POSTED: 05/29/13 12:19 PM

St. Maarten – Teachers are suffering from a host of work-related illnesses, the president of the Windward Islands Teachers Union Witu Claire Elshot said yesterday. Teachers suffer from back and eye problems, allergies, colds and flu, but also from complaints about their hands. The latter is due to writing constantly with chalk on blackboards, according to Elshot.

Teachers received a letter last week in which they are warned not to abuse the sick-leave system. “Teachers who report sick more than three times in six months are required to report to the SZV-doctor on the first day of their next sickness,” Elshot said, adding that she considered the letter intimidating.

The union-leader dismissed suggestions that absenteeism among teachers is high.”There are also teachers on maternity leave and that is of course not sickness. But if you add those numbers it makes absenteeism look high.”

Elshot said that she did not have a percentage readily available, or an approximate number of teachers that are currently on sick leave.

The Witu-President made her remarks after commending the hospitality and trade association SHTA for organizing a workshop on occupational health and safety in the workplace. “The SHTA has taken the lead to bring managers up to speed on the subject,” she said, adding that the education Ministry ought to do the same and examine causes and possible remedies for work-related sickness among teachers.

“Teachers are complaining that they have become glorified administrators, stressed out by ongoing training programs and the daily workload. I recommend that the ministry organizes a similar workshop.”

Wiclu president Theophilus Thompson said that the workshop organized by the SHTA touches upon an important issue for the unions: safe working conditions. “The unions will organize training for members to raise awareness about a safe working environment,” he said.

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