Cabinet to consider proposals from Teachers Union today; response will determine whether industrial action resumes

Public-school teachers are awaiting word on their proposals to the Browne Administration, with industrial action looming if the decisions of the Government are not satisfactory.

On Monday, February 13, teachers staged a brief sit-in during the morning hours, until it was confirmed that a meeting with the Teachers Union executive and Ministry of Education officials had been convened at the Ministry of Legal Affairs.

That meeting was also attended by Minister of Labour Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin and Minister of Education Daryll Matthew.

A source claims that several proposals and counter proposals were put forward at that meeting, according to the Union, which updated its membership on Tuesday afternoon, February 14, at the Clare Hall Secondary School.

According to the source, teachers were informed that – during its weekly meeting today, February 15 – the Cabinet will go over the proposals put forward by the educators in order to satisfy their  concerns.

Reportedly, teachers are requesting a 15 percent salary increase that will be split into an 8 percent raise for a certain period and 7 percent for another.

However, other reports claim the Administration has said it is unable to pay that initial sum and has made a counter-offer of 2 percent.

Meanwhile, the teachers have become frustrated over a number of issues impacting them, including the upsurge in school violence; the state of teaching; and their work environment.

Security and the quality of that security are also concerns being expressed by the teachers.

A source says the staff at a primary institution had been complaining, for years, about lights at the school; however, they were installed only in the weeks leading up to the General Election, since the compound was expected to be used as a counting centre.

Teachers at another primary have expressed similar concerns about lighting.  The area in which the school is located is pitch dark at night, they say, and attractive to thieves, since they can break into the school without fear of being seen. Reportedly, there is no security at that school either.

In order to provide added security at a secondary school, the source reports that parents pooled their resources and purchased surveillance cameras – something the Browne Administration had been promising to do for months.

However, the source adds, now that the cameras have been purchased without cost to the Government, the school reportedly has been told that the Administration cannot offer any monitoring services.

Meanwhile, negotiations on their 2018-2020 contract; teacher upgrades; and the head-of-department (HOD) honorarium are other issues  the teachers want to have addressed.

Officials say that of the 326 teachers eligible for upgrades, 301 of these upgrades have been completed, while the others are in progress.

It was also noted that 34 vouchers for HOD/ex-gratia payments have been prepared by the Ministry of Education and are currently awaiting payment by the Treasury.

Reportedly, negotiations for the 2018-2020 contract have been ongoing with the A&BUT and a recommendation is being sent to the Cabinet for approval.

In a communiqué from their union last week, teachers were advised that if the Government fails to meet their demands satisfactorily at the end of the 21 days, industrial action will recommence. 

However, it is unclear whether the educators still hold this position.