(JamaicaObserver)The Government’s wage offer for educators was rejected by Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) delegates, on Wednesday, after a high-level meeting at the Mico University College in St Andrew ended with the union voting against the proposal.
A press release from the JTA pointed out that of a total of 578 ballots issued, 574 delegates voted, of which 346 rejected the offer and 227 accepted.
“The majority votes reflect the collective will of the teachers,” said JTA President La Sonja Harrison, who was speaking to the educators during the delegates meeting.
Harrison said delegates would return to the negotiating table with the Government to bargain for a better wage offer for educators.
“Where reject is concerned, the union will dispatch a letter to the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service highlighting the results of the spoken voice of the delegates of the teachers of this nation, as well as request an urgent meeting with the minister to settle on a critical item,” she told the educators.
The rejected wage offer comes a day after Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke announced that $367 billion will be allocated for salaries to public sector workers during his 2022/2023 Budget Debate presentation.
Clarke had recently shared with the Jamaica Observer that the total retroactive compensation provided for teachers in the third and fourth supplementary estimates is approximately $12 billion, “and this is on hand to be paid to teachers in March 2023”.
Amid the delegates meeting on Wednesday, Corporate Area teachers joined the rest of their colleagues across the island to stage a host of protests, airing calls for better wage offers.
While some educators, including those at St Andrew High School for Girls, had protests at the gates of their institutions in the early morning, others were seen marching through the National Heroes’ Park in Kingston towards the finance ministry at 10:00 am.
Adamant that they were staging a silent protest, the educators declined to speak with the Observer and instead pointed to their placards, some of which read, “Silence is golden, but fair wages are priceless”, “Teaching is a profession, not a poverty sentence”, “We’re silent, but we’re not invincible, we deserve fair pay.”
The educators, who were from institutions including Papine High School, St Hugh’s High School and Wolmer’s High School for Girls, stood in front of the ministry, whilst a number of motorists tooted their horns seemingly in support of them.
A few teachers among the group added sweets and bag juice to their protest, noting that they, “have to sell to get pay.”
A release from the educators that was shared with the Observer stated that the teachers’ community is restive as it relates to the ongoing negotiations.
“As passionate and committed educators, teachers are simply seeking fair compensation for their hard work and dedication to their students. It is only reasonable that they be paid a liveable wage that reflects the important role they play in the development of our children and our nation’s future.”
“The teachers’ community is not asking for special treatment or unrealistic demands, but rather for what is fair. They are not asking for luxury, but simply the ability to provide for themselves and their families without having to sacrifice their health, dignity and quality of life,” the release said.