Disgruntled NCTVET employees, HEART clash over wages, benefitsSunday, October 24, 2021
BY KELSEY THOMAS
KINGSTON, Jamaica — Employees at the National Council on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET), have threatened industrial action following the non-resolution of several matters including pay, benefits and the non-printing of certificates stemming from continued confusion after the “successful” HEART NSTA Trust merger.
The NCTVET, the certifying body for HEART, has been stuck in limbo since 2018 between the education ministry and the trust. This follows HEART's merger with the Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL), the National Youth Service (NYS) and the Apprenticeship Board.
In July of this year, the issue was raised at a meeting of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) during its review of the auditor general's September 2020 report on the operations of the national training agency.
However, now controversial permanent secretary in the education ministry Dr Grace McLean, had then insisted that there was no delay, just a long process.
But tensions have been rising between the NCTVET and HEART ever since.
Speaking with OBSERVER ONLINE, an employee shared that “When that merging happened, they did a reappraisal of all pay and moved everybody pay up except for those at the NCTVET and the VTDI (Vocational Training Development Institute). Our pay has frozen for four years now and they don't realign our pay with anybody at HEART. There has been no pay raise, nothing that we are supposed to be getting so we are just stuck at one place from 2018.”
“We, the division, are getting way lower than what we are supposed to be getting based on what everybody else in the organisation is getting. We are doing the same duties and we are being compensated less,” the employee continued.
In some instances, HEART employees in the same role doing the same duties are being paid at least $400,000 per annum more than those at NCTVET.
The NCTVET employees say they are also suffering from a lack of benefits and allowances such as health insurance benefits.
“The administration of HEART has communicated to the NCTVET staff members that they can't do anything because we are no longer a part of HEART but that has not been official as yet. They say we are moving to the Ministry of Education but no steps have been taken, no communication has been issued,” the member of staff said.
As the accreditation body, the NCTVET is being removed from under HEART because, as the employee explained, “it would be like Papine High School running CXC (Caribbean Examinations Council) which shouldn't be, because CXC should be an independent examination body”.
But the employee claims the staff has been shut off from all communication with both the Ministry of Education and with HEART.
The employee said the last communication with HEART was initiated following a letter submitted through the National Workers Union (NWU) to HEART's acting Managing Director, Novelette Denton-Prince on October 15, 2021, expressing concerns regarding the non-resolutions of several matters.
The letter, a copy of which was obtained by OBSERVER ONLINE, noted the following matters which it said were previously brought to management's attention as early as August 18:
- Lack of increment, seniority payments and retroactive payments for same to qualified staff;
- Progress of the Cabinet submission which will complete the NCTVET transition;
- No indication of plans to take action to realign the salary package of NCTVET staff with that of people in other divisions of the Trust;
- Workers on fixed term contracts for years with no break between contract renewals, and no re-signing after the initial signing of the contract (i.e. the contract is automatically renewed), a clear indication that these employees are now permanent staff and should immediately be treated as such;
- Lack of an appointed NCTVET Council, or signatory for certificates which has resulted in a halt of certificate production for trainees islandwide and the inability to approve standards;
- Exploring the possibility of moving contract workers up the pay scale in a similar manner as permanent members of staff; and
- Establishing a set quarterly meeting schedule to update NCTVET staff on matters relating to them.
The union also issued a 72-hour notice for the undertaking of industrial action commencing Friday, October 22, 2021 at 6:00 am.
“The workers are understandably agitated during what has been for them a period of great uncertainty and emotional turmoil especially considering the changes that have taken and continue to take place within the larger organisation and they feel that, while their contributions are highly valued, their stated concerns have paled into insignificance. We remain hopeful that through meaningful dialogue and engagement such a drastic measure can be avoided and we anticipate your prompt acknowledgement,” the NWU notice stated.
The employee said a meeting was then arranged on Thursday, October 21, a day before the anticipated industrial action but “they told us nothing in the meeting so we gave them an ultimatum that we need a next meeting with them and the Ministry of Education by this week in order for us not go forward with our industrial action because basically what they said to us is that they don't know anything and we must just sit and wait until they know something,” the staff member said.