The 2019 new academic school term may see teachers boycotting classes if the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) fails to arrive at a reasonable salary negotiation with the T&T Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA).
The warning came yesterday from president of TTUTA Lynsley Doodhai, as primary and secondary schools get set to open its doors next Monday.
On Friday the CPO will meet with TTUTA to discuss salary negotiations for its 15,000 teachers.
Of this figure, TTUTA represents 11,500 teachers.
Doodhai said while TTUTA has been working with the Ministry of Education to deal with the challenges in the education system, its biggest bugbear was the CPO's failure to negotiate a salary increase for the 2014 to 2017 collective agreement.
"This remains a sore point for us as we have teachers who are still being paid on 2014 salaries," Doodhai said. With the cost of living soaring, Doodhai said teachers deserve better pay packages.
In November 2015, Doodhai said, TTUTA submitted a proposal on the collective agreement to the CPO which consists of salary and non-salary items.
"Our negotiations are not based on percentage increases. It is based on a market survey being done to ascertain the value of similar jobs on the external labour market. And then, those figures are used in negotiations," Doodhai said.
"We are hopeful that some positive news can be given to us at that meeting."
Since October, Doodhai said, teachers have been wearing red clothing, ribbons, and armbands during classes as a mark of protest over salary negotiations.
Doodhai said if negotiations are not settled, TTUTA's general council would be encouraging teachers to continue wearing red.
"The wearing of the red ribbon is just the first step. There would be more stringent measures that may be adopted by the general council," Doodhai said.
In the past, Doodhai said teachers displayed their disapproval by having demonstrations, marches, and days of rest and reflection.
"All those are possible tools that the general council could still deploy. But I don't want to be presumptuous and say that any one of them could be used."
Asked if TTUTA may call on teachers to boycott classes should a settlement not be arrived at, Doodhai said "nothing can be ruled out".
"But it depends on how the negotiations and discussions go with the CPO. We are hoping that both parties can sit around the table and come to some kind of amicable agreement and solution with regards to the proposal TTUTA would have sent in. We are hoping that good sense would prevail."
Doodhai said TTUTA was mindful of the state of the economy.
"We are prepared to be reasonable in terms of our approach to the negotiations."
Will TTUTA garner support from other trade unions if negotiations break down with the CPO? Doodhai said although TTUTA has relied on its own strength to send its message across, they believe in trade union solidarity.
"That cannot be ruled out. We are a member of the Joint Trade Union Movement. We always try to show solidarity with other unions."
Doodhai said Education Minister Anthony Garcia has given the assurance that all schools will be opened on Monday.
- by Shaliza Hassanali