JPS strike forces early closure for special needs school

BY SHANAE STEWART
Observer staff reporter
stewarts@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

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A school for special needs children in Kingston was among those forced to close early yesterday due a lack of electricity and a related lack of water arising from the labour strike by some Jamaica Public Service Company Limited (JPS) employees.

The principal of the school, the name of which the Jamaica Observer is withholding to protect the identity of the children, said she did not see it fit to keep school open given the challenges.

“We had to dismiss school somewhat early because we have no water. From 10:30 a m we have been contacting parents to come and [pick up] the children,” she said.

“We have been having terrible water problems in general, and so we purchase water for the school. However, we need electricity to pump it. We have never had to close school because of water issues, seeing that we usually purchase it. [But] without electricity we have no water and we need a lot of water to deal with our kind of children, so when I saw 10:30 come and there was no change, I decided to call the parents,” she explained.

The situation was worse for some students of the school who are wards of the State.

“There is also a children's home with children who attend the school and their bus ran out of petrol this morning. When they went to the nearest gas station there was no electricity to pump the gas and so those children from the home are still here and we have to be waiting with them even though we dismissed earlier on,” the principal said.

The JPS strike disrupted power supply in sections of Kingston and St Andrew and St Thomas.

The National Water Commission (NWC) reported that its customers in sections of St Elizabeth and Manchester, who are served by the Gutters facility in Manchester, also had a disruption in their water supply due to JPS' power outage.

JPS, on Twitter, said the industrial action followed a breakdown on Monday in wage and fringe benefit negotiations — between the company and the Union of Clerical Administrative and Supervisory Employees (UCASE), which represents the workers.

The power company said discussions with UCASE would continue at the Industrial Dispute Tribunal (IDT) at a meeting scheduled for 9:30 am yesterday morning.

When the Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Fayval Williams was contacted for an update yesterday afternoon, she said she was not yet aware of the groups coming to a mutual decision.

A JPS employee told the Observer that the strike was mainly being executed by the technical staff.

“People are calling in sick, and so there aren't enough persons to monitor and maintain the grid,” the employee said.


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