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Gibraltar NASUWT ‘deeply concerned’ over Govt’s handling of legionella testing

Johnny Bugeja

Gibraltar NASUWT said it is very disappointed to find out that four local schools were shut due to the presence of the legionella bacteria via the press after it has worked closely with the Department of Education and the Government throughout the lockdown period.

The union said the health of staff and students was the single most important factor to consider when reopening schools, and it was given assurances that buildings would be inspected, thoroughly cleaned and deemed safe before teachers and pupils were allowed back in.

Since the Government’s announcement that the two St Bernard’s Schools and the two St Joseph’s Schools would remain closed until the water system is treated, Gibraltar NASUWT has received complaints from members.

The union said teachers have been told not to drink water from taps or use the hot water urns since last week but were not provided with a valid reason.

“They are now very worried and angry with the Department of Education who they feel may have withheld information about the potential danger in the water system,” the union said in a statement.

“We echo their sentiments and feel extremely let down that the Department of Education has allowed teachers and children to attend an unsafe environment, especially given the amount of time it has had to avoid this from happening.”

“The union has also been informed by members that some schools have been provided with potable water since last Tuesday.”

“In some, but not all, the hot water boilers have been replaced.”

“Surely this exercise should have been undertaken prior to opening the schools and not after.”

“Schools should have received the ‘green light’ from the pertinent Government department entrusted with such health and safety issues before last Tuesday.”

“This is a deeply concerning public health issue and the union is now questioning whether the appropriate steps have been taken in all schools to ensure a safe environment for all.”

Gibraltar NASUWT has questioned whether the Department of Education knew that schools were not ready to be opened, yet still went ahead with the unlocking.

“If the official side withheld this information from staff and parents, it would amount to a gross breach of trust regarding a very serious safeguarding issue,” it said, adding: “The union has sought assurances from the Department of Education, but received very little information on the matter.”

“School buildings must be inspected thoroughly and deemed safe with immediate effect and the pertinent certification obtained and made public.”

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