ROSE HALL, St James — Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites has said that due to the harsh economic climate, Government may have to take a fresh look at some aspects of the teachers' 2010/2012 contractual agreement which are still outstanding.
"I have heard of your deliberations yesterday (Tuesday), where there are sums of money that are owing on contractual arrangements which have not been paid. Many of those arrangements may have to be reviewed given the financial conditions of the country," Thwaites said yesterday during his address at the 48th annual Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) Conference.
But notwithstanding the country's acute financial difficulties, the education minister sided with the nations educators who demand that fulfilment of outstanding contractual obligations be made as soon as possible.
"What I am very anxious about is that some should be fulfilled, should be paid as soon as possible. We may have to look at the ways at which emoluments are phrased and see changes there. But while the obligations are there, whether it be refund of tuition expenses, or payment of travelling, or the progression of salaries cheques, we must improve and try hard to give them predictability and give them good performance," the education minister told reporters following his address to the teachers' caucus.
He pledged to back the newly installed JTA President Clayton Hall to lobby the Ministry of Finance to expedite payment of the outstanding emoluments.
"Mr President, on the night of your installation you said you hoped that I would join you in the march from lower Heroes Circle up to that other ministry higher up the road. And I am here this morning with my running shoes in my back pocket to tell you this, I will follow back-a-you," the education minister quipped.
In a quick response, the new JTA president challenged the education minister not to renege on his promise.
"Life is like a cricket match. We are at the crease, Mr Minister. We did not set the pitch and we will play the strokes contingent on the ball bowled. You have indicated, Mr Minster, that you are prepared with your running shoes. So please don't bow," Hall charged.
In the meantime, Thwaites challenged the teachers to enter into a new covenant with Government to move education forward.
"The partnership is needed first of all to improve the quality of education. It is needed in order to constantly revise and update and improve the contracts between the state and the teachers, the terms and conditions upon which you work. And to address even more fundamentally with more difficulty, the social, the cultural, and the financial realities which pertain to and often inflict education," Thwaites stated.
He implored the teachers to buy into the new partnership and turn their backs on the sometimes antagonistic approach.
"There are some that can't break out of the stand-off mentality that has so suffused our past. There are some of you who fear that if we adopt this approach that there will be some kind of sell-out of your interests. There are some perhaps in the populace outside who are saying that you will not get fair value if the ministry and the teachers are somehow in bed together," Thwaites said.