While agreeing with Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU) that the timing of a letter received by public school staffers their first day back on the job could have been “a bit off” (see related story), Education Minister Wycliffe Smith said the content was not. It was also not sent to all 190, but only the 52 who had reported sick more than three times during the last academic year.

While the latter may not seem that much, the requirement for them to now go for medical control on the first day of absence is understandable. Having to do so only on the fourth day obviously opens the door to staying home up to three days without a valid reason and no repercussions.

One must keep in mind that it regards only – just over – a quarter of the total, so most of the personnel apparently don’t have this problem. What probably irked the others was mention of the “no-work-no-pay” principle for days the sick leave policy is not adhered to, but that’s a consequence of their own relatively frequent absence supposedly due to illness.

Of much greater concern are the six employees who received two letters because they have been on sick leave “for several years or more.” Something needs to be done about these cases and all so-called “ghost civil servants” who never show up for work but are still collecting a salary.

There are already procedures in place to deal with such matters, including a mandatory medical re-evaluation after a certain period. If the person involved is then found no longer suitable for the function, he or she must be either transferred somewhere else where they can still make themselves useful, or laid off to collect disability pay.

It cannot be so that the system is structurally abused at the expense of colleagues forced to pick up the slack and taxpayers who ultimately foot the bill.