JTA president-elect inks wage deal as Harrison pulls out of signing
Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) President La Sonja Harrison seemingly broke ranks with the leadership of her union on Monday when she refused to sign the compensation package that a record number of delegates voted to accept on Sunday. In a...
Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) President La Sonja Harrison seemingly broke ranks with the leadership of her union on Monday when she refused to sign the compensation package that a record number of delegates voted to accept on Sunday.
In a move that seemingly shocked her colleagues and finance ministry officials alike, Harrison reportedly read a statement signalling her disapproval of the final offer by the Government before exiting the meeting.
The Memorandum and Articles of Association of the JTA indicates that whenever the president is absent, the president-elect can carry out her duties.
An informed source told The Gleaner that Harrison asked to be “withdrawn and excused” from the signing.
JTA President-elect Leighton Johnson inked the deal with Finance and the Public Service Minister Dr Nigel Clarke.
Harrison, who was spotted by The Gleaner leaving the ministry’s offices long before her colleagues inked the agreement, declined to comment. She directed that interviews be done with the other members of her team.
A reliable source told The Gleaner that Harrison indicated that the final offer from the ministry did not represent the worth and work of teachers and what she had fought for as their president.
Harrison also reportedly argued that the Government’s package did not represent a liveable wage and that she could not be a party to the signing.
In a Gleaner interview on Monday, Johnson said that Harrison was not available for signing. When pressed, he admitted that the president attended the meeting; however, he insisted that she was “unavailable for signing”.
When asked if there was a rift in the leadership of the JTA, Johnson quoted the association’s motto, which is ‘Unite and Serve’.
He made it clear that the delegates gave the leadership of the JTA a mandate, noting that more than 800 – or 80 per cent – of the delegates voted to accept the offer on Sunday “and it is on that decision that we stand”.
The signing has triggered a dash to the finish line as the government machinery kicks in to calculate the retroactive sums to be paid to some 24,000 public school teachers before month-end.
Johnson told The Gleaner that Clarke had given an undertaking that as much as is humanly possible, the ministry will try and meet the March 31 deadline, when the current financial year ends. Clarke had previously indicated that if the money was not paid out in the current fiscal year, the teachers would have to wait until 2024-2025 to begin getting payments.
Johnson admitted that the final offer did not address all the concerns of the JTA, but noted that the delegates, nonetheless, signalled that they would accept what was on the table.
Meanwhile, Jamaica Police Federation President Corporal Rohan James told The Gleaner on Monday that the rank and file members are yet to reach an agreement under the compensation system with the finance ministry.