Teachers want salary hike - boycott likely if CPO fails to settle

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

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