The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union (SVGTU) is cautioning principals against using their offices as sick bays, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The reason why I say caution is because we agreed with the government — and this is 20 years ago. That’s why I’m saying these things should have been in place already. These things are reasonable. The collective agreement is clear. It says over a reasonable period of time, you must have suitable accommodation for teachers or students when they get sick,” Oswald Robinson, the union’s president told a press conference in Kingstown on Tuesday, ahead of the Aug. 31 reopening of school for all students.

“In other words, we’re talking about a sick bay,” Robinson said. “So if you do not have a sick bay, then you need to have a designated area that you could isolate somebody in the event they show signs of COVID or, as a matter of fact, any other disease or illness; not the principal’s office.”

He said that principals who agree with the ministry to use their offices as sick bays are violating the collective agreement.

“The principal’s office is the centre; it’s the hub of all activities of the school. That’s where you have to go to make a phone call; that’s where your teachers would go and interface with your principal; that’s where the students would go.

“So we want to keep that area of the principal’s office — and in some principal’s offices is just a two-by-four, you don’t have room to put in cots, much more a bed,” Robinson said.

“And you want designate that to use it for illnesses? No, that should never be. So we’re sending that message clear and straight out to our principals: designate some area, not your office. And we have said that to the Ministry of Education,” he told the media.