Seaforth High teachers protest over non-payment of salary deductions
The entrance toSeaforth High Schoolin St Thomas.(Photo: Arnold Kelly)

Angered by non-payment of salary deductions, teachers at Seaforth High School in St Thomas staged a protest on Monday with the hope of getting answers from the Government to resolve the problem.

According to two educators at the school, the issue, which they said also affects ancillary staff, is now at crisis level and has forced some of their colleagues to rack up thousands of dollars in interest on loans.

Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) union representative for the school Kindamae Pennant Miller told the Jamaica Observer that the problem started in 2016, but despite raising concern to various leaders over the years it has not been rectified.

"We have been having problems with our salary deductions not being paid over to the institutions to which they are supposed to go. It has been happening for like six years but now it has been getting progressively worse. Teachers are in arrears," she said.

According to Pennant Miller, approximately 80 per cent of the school administration is affected by the issue, and have been daunted by e-mails and calls from financial institutions about unpaid loans.

"Not only teachers, but the ancillary staff is affected too. Some monies that they pay over every month are not sent over. Their mortgages are in problem as persons are being e-mailed by the National Housing Trust every month," she said.

"A teacher I know has had to run to her credit union to pay monies for her car that they were about to repossess. Teachers can't go to institutions to access their savings or loans. So the school is in serious arrears with TIP Friendly Society. Not even some insurance companies [have] received any payment from the school for over a year, which is in excess of a million or so," she added.

She said that her colleague spoke about the issue during a JTA conference in August.

This was followed by a meeting at the school with a team from the Ministry of Education in September 2021. The ministry, she said, had promised that the matter would have been sorted by October of that year.

"This means that it has come to the attention of the nation and still nothing is being done. I don't know where the blame lies, but I know that the money [is deducted] from our salary every month," she said.

Another teacher who expressed her frustration said, "I am a member of the JTA Credit Union and I have a loan with them, plus savings, so when my money doesn't go to cover my loans for the month they take out of your savings to cover."

Sharing stories about her colleagues' financial challenges, she said, "Two persons expressed concerns to me. One so far said they have over $400,000 in interests, and one over $500,000. A teacher who has an insurance policy, her mother died two weeks ago and when she went to check, the insurance lapsed a long time ago."

She said that she and her colleagues will continue protesting on Tuesday, until the issue is addressed.

"They are taking from your money every month and it's as if nobody cares. We are protesting out here because we are suffering financially," she said.

The Observer reached out to the education ministry regarding the allegations but up to press time there was no response to questions submitted.

BY BRITTNY HUTCHINSON Observer staff reporter hutchinsonb@jamaicaobserver.com

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