Educators and students at Helen Keller Resource Centre are currently facing a number of Health & Safety risks following a court prohibitory warrant from the Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD) on a long-standing directive issued by the MUT in 27th October 2014 on the unsafe use of a ‘jacuzzi’, which is just a fiberglass bath tub which can hardly cater for one person let alone an educator immersed with a student. Once again, the Union is being deprived from taking industrial actions through directives but will be fighting this through all available channels, including legal and trade-unionistic, to make sure educators and students are not at risk.
During a press conference in front of the Resource Centre in Qrendi, the MUT outlined the details why it issued the directives to protect both educators and students. MUT President Marco Bonnici stated that it has no issues with any hydrotherapy service and in fact there is another Resource Centre providing it successfully through the use of proper pools and not by immersing educators and students together in bath tubs. Without the right resources there are serious Health & Safety risks to both educators and students and the Union cannot accept that this goes on with everyone’s blessing as if it was nothing.
“At this Centre an LSE goes into the water and remains there until four students use the service, each for 20 minutes. Due to mobility limitations, the student is practically over the LSE’s body, who holds him or her to remain in an upright position. The process for the change of student is very long as it involves lifting the students, cleaning and changing them by another two LSEs while the first waits in the bath until the next 20-minute process is repeated with another student. This effectively means that this first LSE spends a whole morning in the bath tub with contaminated water. Most students suffer from other complications such as incontinence, and hence the water is contaminated practically following the immersion of the first student. One can therefore imagine the level of contamination of water after the second, third and fourth student immersion. If your son is the third or fourth person earmarked to use this service, would you let him? I certainly wouldn’t.”
The MUT also mentioned other related serious issues. The water used for this service is now said to be tested once a week, but no further details are provided. The Union was however informed that the water used, which in the past had failed essential tests, is still untreated as the school affirms that following use in the bath tub, it uses this water to water plants. The Union noted that the latest tests held may have been in October 2017. Also, the Union cannot ignore the effect of this bath tub service on other students who are not using the service. Since a number of LSEs need to be assigned to this service when operating, this results in less LSEs with students in class, causing additional Health & Safety risks to the rest of the students.
In conclusion, the MUT stated that it would like to stress the obvious – that it has nothing against the CRPD and persons with disability. However, it feels that the concern of the CRPD should have been resources which are not up to standard, an issue which should be directed at the employer and not the Union. The CRPD, instead of trying to silence educators through court actions, should have instead joined the Union to make sure all resources and services in place for persons with disability are not posing serious risks to them and their educators. Meanwhile, the MUT reiterates that it will not be silenced and will continue to defend a trade union’s right to defend its members from this ongoing lack of respect which is now verging on abuse. The court case will be heard on Tuesday 13th.