Double or nothing: Teachers want at least 10%
Determined to teach the Government a lesson, the island's teachers have declared that anything short of a double-digit salary increase will not be accepted.
Speaking with The Sunday Gleaner after they voted to reject the Government's seven per cent wage offer during yesterday's Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) special conference, the teachers held nothing back as they drew their line in the sand.
With Bob Marley's War playing in the backdrop, 243 delegates spoke on behalf of the nation's more than 24,000 teachers.
And as if enjoying the thrill of victory, a triumphant roar greeted JTA President Doran Dixon's announcement of the result of the secret ballot.
"If it was even 10 per cent, we would have accepted," said Jannett Foster, a district association representative from Clarendon.
"I am very happy about this, although we never wanted this. I am very pleased with the result, that majority of the people rejected the offer, because at this time, we really cannot accept that offer," added Foster.
Sandor Morris, a district association representative from Trelawny, who also voted against the seven per cent wage offer, broke it down into dollar figures as to what the teachers would be comfortable with.
"I believe that the average teacher - that is one who has a first degree - should go home with no less than $10,000 more after tax," Morris outlined to The Sunday Gleaner. "The current offer would see that teacher going home with $7,000 more; that can't even buy a tank of gas.
"So nothing less than $10,000. Nothing less than a 10 per cent increase is what we should settle for," said Morris.
LAST-MINUTE PITCH BACKFIRES
In what was viewed as a very late attempt by the Government to sway the teachers' decision, Dixon reportedly received a phone call close to midnight last Friday offering an increase in the book, software and technology allowance, but this backfired.
"I think the Government was a bit underhanded in passing the information to the president just last night," said La Sonja Harrison of the Central St Andrew District Association.
"They didn't give us an opportunity to go back to our other colleagues in the schools, discuss the new offer, and then come and vote. So I think, rightfully, my colleagues here rejected the offer.
"I think a 10 per cent would be more favourable, and would clear a psychological blockage as well, so persons will perhaps be more receptive to that. Given how it is, where our dollar is so devalued, the seven per cent really is just not feasible, so I think if they touch double digits then [we would accept that]."
Janice Douglas, of the Portmore District Association, said her members told her to "throw the garbage at their feet", showing how unimpressed they were with the wage offer.
"They have asked us to hold strain for five years. Our mortgages are in jeopardy, and we can't send our children to school," said Douglas.
"And we don't qualify for the PATH programme, so there is no assistance; nothing to kotch us up."