Scores of members of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) have opted to withdraw from the union after its delegates voted to accept the Government’s new compensation package.
The JTA, late Sunday evening, announced that 80 per cent of its delegates (629) who attended a specially called virtual delegates’ conference voted to accept the latest wage package offered by the Government while 19 per cent of eligible voters (147) said no.
Following the vote, the JTA, through its secretary general, Dr Mark Nicely, wrote to Minister of Finance Dr Nigel Clarke conveying the wishes of the delegates who represent the 78 district associations islandwide and requested that he executes the necessary processes to facilitate the signing of the heads of agreement.
The signing was done Monday afternoon at the Ministry of Finance with journalists being barred. However, information reaching the media is that JTA President LaSonja Harrison withdrew from the signing and opted for President-Elect Leighton Johnson to do the signing on behalf of the union.
But even as the JTA executives were congratulating themselves for securing an improved offer from the finance ministry — details of which are yet to be made public — angry teachers took to one of their WhatsApp groups to slam the decision to sign.
The teachers also started reaching out for links to opportunities to migrate.
“Teachers, we are a creative and talented group. Let us start using that to benefit ourselves. Let us start looking out for our personal welfare. Put ourselves first because no one else is,” said one educator.
“Any more overseas work link, please pass it on. Can we send the overseas link here now, please? Thanks in advance,” queried another teacher.
The query was immediately met with links to a number of sites recruiting teachers from Jamaica.
“All is legit. I have only listed the programmes that I can attest to. Send to your family and friends that love teaching, has at least a Bachelor’s degree and would love a new experience with a better salary,” said the teacher who posted the link.
“Go to Caribbeanjobs, Turks and Caicos want teachers $37k US plus living,” added another teacher.
As the anger boiled over, one obviously disgruntled teacher posted: “Good day colleagues. At this point, I am more disappointed and upset with the JTA than I am about the salary/negotiations.
“The truth is, if we had better representation over the years, teachers wouldn’t be in this position. It seems as if the JTA’s sole purpose is to appease principals and politicians while teachers are pushed in a corner. More than our measly salary and indiscipline from students, a teacher’s biggest hurdle/issue/problem most of the time is administration! Yet, year after year we are represented by principals.
“I personally will be terminating my membership by end of [this] week. Teachers deserve a union that represents us [all of us], a union where its leaders aren’t easily swayed, and a union that doesn’t only care about financial gains. Secondly, I am greatly disappointed that while we were all down for the ’cause’ not all teachers will benefit in the same way [specifically those who fall below band four] from this new wage agreement.”
The call to abandon the JTA was one that found strong support in the group with one teacher saying: “We need to meet up at JTA office and let them see thousands of us decide to withdraw.”
Another added: “I’m reading all these comments and I’m pretty sure a lot of you teachers will forget all they are saying right now. Let’s see if you all can keep your word now. I knew this would have happened from yesterday. The Government bought out the JTA long ago and most of the delegates. Guess what? Ministry is going to be pressuring teachers now, starting this week. All I can do is just laugh.”
As more and more barbs were hurled at the leadership of the body which represents the majority of the island’s more than 20,000 public school teachers, one educator asked: “Can someone remind me how to withdraw my membership from JTA?”
The response was quick as another teacher posted the JTA’s ‘Membership Cease Deduction Form” which is to be filled out by people opting out of the union.
But in a quick response, a memorandum dated January 26, 2023 from Nicely was posted in the group.
In the memo the JTA reminded the teachers that they had signed a membership form allowing the deduction of one per cent of their gross salary, or any amount approved by its annual conference monthly, as membership fees.
It was further pointed out that to cancel their membership there would have to be an agreement signed by the teacher and himself.
“No cancellation of membership should be done without reference to the JTA as outlined on the membership form signed by our members,” the memo warned.
But that did not sway the teachers in the group with one charging that: “Santa Clarke laughing all the way to the bank right now. Me shame fi show me face outside. J$2,000 and few cents, that we sell we self for.”