Teachers not prepared to accept weak wage offer - JTA boss
Albert Ferguson, Gleaner Writer
The Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) is warning that regardless of which party forms the Government after Thursday’s general election, it will be resolute in its stance not to accept any wage offer that will further marginalise the nation’s teachers.
Jasford Gabriel, the newly installed JTA president, says that the last wage offer of 16 per cent, which was accepted by teachers, was not worth it because the average rate of inflation has been trending at 4.5 per cent since 2017.
"The current four-year wage agreement offering a 16 per cent increase over the 2017-2021 period has made the teachers of Jamaica worse off than they were four years ago," Gabriel said recently while addressing the 56th annual conference of the JTA in Montego Bay, St James.
According to Gabriel, trained graduates at the beginning of the scale, as of April 1, 2020, would have received less than $5,500 as their net increase in salary.
“This will certainly not attract the best minds to the profession. Honourable Minister [of Education] and team, colleagues, a definitive and decisive statement underlining the value of teachers must be made through the upcoming salary negotiations commencing in 2021,” said Gabriel.
“If this is ignored, it will be to the peril and continued demise of the Jamaican education system.”
At the same time, Gabriel is urging the Government to speed up the appointment of master teachers as a means of ensuring that more educators can earn better salaries and remain on the job.
“We currently have less than 40 master teachers. I am calling for an increase to even one per cent of the teaching profession to be master teachers. This will guarantee in excess of 200 master teachers,” said Gabriel.
“The high level of competence acquired by these, our best teachers, the fact that the salary scale is aligned to vice-principals, and the opportunities to effectively deploy these teachers in critical areas will help to stem the migration and positively impact the Jamaican education system,” added Gabriel.
Contentious salary negotiations and the push for better working conditions have been a long-standing issue between the Ministry of Education and the JTA over many years as teachers believe that the failure to properly compensate them has caused many to flee to greener pastures, weakening the local educational sector.
Jamaican teachers are in high demand in places like the United Kingdom and as far away as the United Arab Emirates.
The migration of some of the nation’s best teachers has resulted in a shortage of top-flight mathematics and science educators.
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