Sat | Nov 17, 2018

Not so, Minister! - JTA president rejects Shaw's claim of 26 per cent increase to teachers

Published:Saturday | March 10, 2018 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin/Gleaner Writer
Waugh Richards

A proposal by Finance Minister Audley Shaw, which could see teachers receiving a 26 per cent increase over a four-year period, was staunchly rejected by President of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) Georgia Waugh Richards, who says that teachers are livid and exhausted.

The finance minister stated in his Budget presentation on Thursday that when performance-based increments are taken into consideration, public sector workers could end up with combined increases of 26 per cent over four fiscal years, ending 2020-2021.

Shaw also pointed out that the Government has sought to "ease the burden" on public sector workers by reducing pension contributions from 2.5 per cent in the first and second years by allowing a one per cent payment over five years.

Waugh Richards, who was addressing a press conference, which was held at the JTA's offices in downtown Kingston yesterday, said that the pronouncements by the minister were unfortunate.

"The minister spoke to a 2.5 per cent increment that he suggested 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," said Waugh Richards. "At this point, we wish to indicate that not all teachers qualify for that 2.5 per cent increment as teachers who would be at the top of their scale, referencing the 11-point and six-point scale, no longer qualify for that 2.5 per cent increment," she said.

"Those teachers would also have to sit, at that point, for three years before they can apply for what is called a seniority allowance. So with that, it is not an automatic increase on teachers' salary. We wish to inform the public that it is, in fact, not so."

The president said that they were not willing to bow and would go as far as seeking help overseas, including the International Labour Organization.

"The teachers are tired. It has been a journey since 2016, when we submitted our salary claim, and today, one can actually say that we are nowhere. The teachers are livid; the teachers are restive; the teachers feel as if they have been disrespected," she said.

"Therefore, I deem it my responsibility to bring this to the public's attention. We have no agreement and, therefore, will accept no payment," Waugh Richards said. "We believe that this is tantamount to union busting and that the rights and the bargaining rights of our members, if we accept this, will be trampled upon. We are saying to Government, do not go that route," she declared.

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com