Teachers discuss negotiations, remain militant
A mood of militancy saturated the atmosphere at a Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) Kingston Parish Association meeting on Thursday as a handful of teachers gathered at JTA's head office amidst an ongoing wage battle between teachers and the Government.
When Byron Farquharson, general secretary of the JTA, spoke to the teachers, he indicated that the JTA would remain adamant in its lobby efforts for better pay for teachers.
"We are locked in negotiations with the Government. We are in a struggle, but we are not going to let anyone take advantage of us. We will stand up for what is fair and right," he said.
Doran Dixon, president of the JTA, disclosed details of the negotiations.
"The latest offer from the Government shows some marginal movement, but I want to silence any rumour that we have accepted an offer from the Government. I swear on my grandmother's grave that we have not signed off on anything, and we are going through the process" he said.
As it regards the offer of a 7 per cent increase on basic salary, Dixon indicated that the Government proposed 4 per cent in year one and 3 per cent in year two.
"What we have said to the Government regarding that offer is that we hear you; we have not given a response. We told them that we will bring the offer to our members and that we will get back to them," he added.
While lauding the teachers for the protest actions some have taken, he stated that the JTA had not yet called an official strike action.
"I told them that when we call a strike they will know because there will be no traffic on the road," he quipped.
Professional development Fund
He also indicated that the Government agreed to pay more than $20 million dollars into the coffers of the JTA for a professional development fund.
"We were getting $5 million for the fund, and they have now agreed to increase that to $20 million. Additionally, we are in discussions to provide some special compensations for teachers who teach sixth form because we recognise that they are operating a little higher than the high school level," he said
Dixon went on to discuss other details of the negotiations.
For protective clothing allowance, the JTA made a claim for $25,000 in year one and $35,000 in year two. That claim was settled at $18,504 in year one with no change in year two.
Duty allowance, which is afforded to teachers who oversee agricultural and industrial operations in particular schools and now stands at $60,000, has been agreed at $62,000 in year one and $63,500 in year two.
"A special duty allowance for teachers who take students to festivals and competitions, which we got in the last negotiating cycle at $750, has now been increased to $1,500. I know a lot of teachers have not been claiming the allowance because it does not seem like a lot, but teachers I urge you to claim for it," Dixon said.
He went on to outline that negotiations have also proposed a scheme whereby the Government will buy back unutilised vacation leave from teachers should they opt to reduce their vacation time.