Rusea's teachers sit-in, protest unpaid money
Gov't given Friday deadline
Paul Clarke, Gleaner Writer
Classes at the Rusea's High School in Hanover were severely disrupted yesterday, the first day back after the Christmas break, as teachers staged a sit-in over unpaid retroactive moneys owed to them.
The 93 teachers sat mainly in the staffroom as their respective classes were manned by prefects and student councillors, according to the principal, Linvern Wright.
Wright explained that a portion of money was owed to the school for the period 2001-2008 after the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) recalculated and found that teachers were not paid what was due from a previous exercise.
"It's a minimal sum, and the Government would have paid the retroactive amount already; but it's just that they had miscalculated and there was a minimal shortfall so that some schools would have had short payments and Rusea's is one such," Wright said.
"So the JTA had brought the issue up to them earlier in the academic year and they made payments to many schools. It's just that we are one of the few that remain. I think they are taking a rigorous auditing to make sure that what the bursars submitted and what they have as the ministry is correct."
The sum outstanding is approximately $3.1 million, and the teachers are not in the mood for talk. They are demanding action and a firm commitment from the ministry as to when the rest of the money will be paid over to them.
JTA contact teacher for the school, Dawn Dawes, told The Gleaner that the teachers have issued an ultimatum to the Government for payment to be made no later than this Friday or face continued protest on advice from the JTA.
Wright, while distancing himself, said he understands the decision by his teachers to protest as they are "running out of patience".
"I can neither support nor not support the action. they deserve their money and they have a right under union and labour laws to protest, and the fact is they are, indeed, running out of patience," he said.
Meanwhile, Dawes said the school had been in touch with the JTA regional office and the bursar since Rusea's is a bursar-paid school, as to when the moneys would be forwarded.
"At one point, the bursar was told that everything was in place, so she should go ahead and pay the money from the subvention account, but there is no money in that account based on this new system that the government has put in place," Dawes said.
Still no update
The new system is called the Central Treasury Management System and it prohibits schools from keeping money in their subvention accounts. As a consequence, she said teachers have been firmly stretching their patience in the hope that the ministry would have been forthcoming with any information as to when they would be paid.
"Up to today (Monday), there is nothing, so the decision was taken on the penultimate day of the last school term (December 16, 2014) that on the first day of the new term, if there was no concrete decision taken, we would take action," Dawes said.
She noted that contact was made with the Ministry of Education but nothing concrete had been agreed on, nor when the retroactive sum would be paid.
"We are determined to keep up this protest until we hear something specific, and that means that it is now up to the ministry to find a way to do so," she said.
"I am hoping they keep up their end of the bargain and by Tuesday (today) we will have an end to this."
Dawes added: "We have waited an entire term and we are giving the ministry up until this Friday to say to us, you are paid. If not, we will hold dialogue with the JTA as to what further action we can take to drive our points home."