Teachers militant

JTA threatens to take wage dispute to overseas organisations

Observer writer

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), which has rejected Government's wage increase offer of 16 per cent over four years and declared that teachers will not accept the one year retroactive payment to be made this month, yesterday threatened to take the dispute overseas.

“…We are firm believers in the concept of solidarity, and so we will seek the intervention to the ILO (International Labour Organisation) and Education International so that our brothers and sisters on that side can unite with us in this fight,” JTA President Georgia Waugh-Richards told a press briefing following a four-hour meeting of the association's Action Committee at its headquarters on Church Street in downtown Kingston, yesterday.

The Belgium-based Education International is a global union federation of teachers' trade unions consisting of 401 member organisations in 172 countries.

The president said the island's 23,000 public school teachers are restive at this time and no one can predict what action might be taken.

“We have the best interest of Jamaica at heart, and so in this matter… we will find a way; we must find a way,” said the JTA head.

“It has become public knowledge that the teachers of Jamaica have overwhelmingly voted against the offer on the table by the Government of Jamaica. Since that meeting on Saturday of last week we have written to the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service to formerly let them know that the teachers of Jamaica have rejected the offer. To date we have received no response from the ministry,” said Waugh-Richards.

She, meanwhile, took issue with what she called an “unfortunate pronouncements” made by the minister of finance in his budget presentation on Thursday. “He spoke to a 26 per cent increase that teachers will realise at the end of the proposed four-year period. We want to bring clarity to that situation and to really emphasise the fact that that pronouncement is unfortunate. The minister of finance spoke to a 2.5 per cent increment that he suggested that teachers receive at the end of every year, and if that 2.5 per cent is added over the four years then the teachers would have seen a 10 per cent increase at this point. We wish to indicate that not all teachers qualify for that 2.5 per cent increment. Teachers who are at the top of their scale no longer qualify for that 2.5 per cent increment and those teachers will have to sit at that point for three years before they can apply for what is called a seniority allowance, and that is not an automatic increase on teachers' salaries,“ she said.

”The teaching force is exhausted; the teachers are tired, livid, restive, and feel that they have been disrespected. The teachers believe that their real worth is not been quantified and recognised by Government,“ Waugh-Richards told journalists.

She also accused the Government of union busting, saying that in an informal meeting with members of the Government they were informed that an agreement had been reached and teachers will start receiving increases in March, but “in our minds we are still in the negotiation process”.

“The teachers are saying no; we have no agreement and therefore we will accept no payment. This is tantamount to union busting, and if we accept this we will be trampled upon. The Jamaica Teachers' Association stands resolute; the teachers of Jamaica are saying to Government do not go that route [as] we are open for negotiation and we understand the concept of negotiation. We understand that we may not get all that we want, neither is Government willing to give us all that we ask, but we are willing to meet at the midpoint. We say to the powers that be we are here, we are awaiting a response and willing to restart negotiations,” the president pointed out.

In response to a question on how long the teachers were willing to wait, the president said they have a turnaround point of two weeks and the teachers have a system in place to respond, and they can mobilise the systems to action but were not expected to be called upon to wait unduly long.




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