Teachers’ Union “Extremely Alarmed” By Legionella News

The teachers’ union Gibraltar NASUWT has said it is “extremely alarmed” to hear the news that four schools are being closed today as a result of legionella bacteria being detected in parts of the water system.

The union executive designate says it is “very disappointed” that after working closely with the Department of Education and HM Government throughout the period of lockdown and during the unlocking of our schools, it has had to find out about this serious matter via the media.

The union says it has been very insistent throughout these past eight weeks that the health of staff and students was “the single most important factor to consider when reopening schools.” The union says it was given assurances that buildings would be inspected, thoroughly cleaned and deemed safe before any staff or students were allowed back in. 

A statement continued: “Since the news of the legionella bacteria found in the water system of four schools was reported earlier today, the union received many messages from members in different schools who claim to have been told by management not to drink from the 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 echoes their sentiments and feels 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. The union is now questioning whether the appropriate steps have been taken in all schools to ensure a safe environment for all. The union is also questioning 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. 

“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.”