Teachers prepared to take battle with government to highest courts
KINGSTON, Jamaica — The Jamaica Teachers Association, (JTA), says it is prepared to go to the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice, (CCJ) as well as the Privy Council for a final legal opinion on the reform of public sector pension here.
Newly elected president, Clayton Hall, in his inaugural address to the JTA’s annual conference in St James, late Tuesday, said his organisation is firmly of the view that the pension should remain within the Teachers' Pension Act.
Hall, addressing more than 500 delegates and observers, said the JTA is prepared to take the matter to the highest court because it supports the original legal opinion from the Attorney General’s Office that changing the pension system is illegal.
The JTA has consistently argued that teachers would be placed at a disadvantage under the reformed pension system, as their retirement benefits would be reduced by up to 40 per cent.
Meanwhile, the JTA has rejected the latest offer from the government to settle the long-standing 2010-12 salaries and conditions of service claim.
Hall said the JTA received a response from Horace Dalley, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Finance that was unacceptable.
"The teachers are highly dissatisfied with the offer at this time and we are seeking to have a holistic review done or seeking that the Ministry of Finance provides us with a response to the items of claim. The conference at this time does not see this as being beneficial or advancing the teachers economic viability especially within this time of economic hardships," Hall said.
In a two page document, Dalley sought to address 10 points of claim, but Hall said “there is little within this offer which speaks to ...assisting the teacher in coping with the increasing cost in the standard of living”.
Hall also sought to dispel reports of a disruption to the school year that starts in September as a result of the government’s latest offer.
"Teachers are the last persons to do any disruption within the education system because we are cognisant of the importance of what we do.
“So, therefore, we are not considering any disruption to the education system, but we are seeking the benevolence of our employers to recognise that we operate under trying economic times and we would like to see at least some reprieve - some breathing space in ensuring that we too can survive,” he added.