PRESIDENT of the Jamaica Teachers' Association La Sonja Harrison says the entity is awaiting the completion of the ongoing public sector compensation review, warning that it will not be supporting the removal of the 20 per cent duty concession on motor vehicles while pointing out that "some schools exist, literally, back of God" [in extremely remote areas].
"The compensation review, that is an ongoing exercise, and we are certainly looking to see what that Government will be presenting in its proposal concerning restructuring, how it is that it pays public sector workers. There are aspects of it that we have shared with our members that we are not in agreement with, how they arrived at some of the bands and how they placed persons in the bands," Harrison said.
The JTA president, who was speaking during a meeting of the Rotary Club of Downtown Kingston on Wednesday, said teachers were in need of "good vehicles to be able to access and serve our constituents as best as we possibly can".
"We are awaiting the concession that is under consideration to be eliminated for all public sector; certainly we join with all our public sector colleagues and say, 'Absolutely not!' If you ever see where some schools exist, like literally back of God, you want at least one member of that school to have a good vehicle so that in case of an emergency you are able to take a child, a member of staff, out and get to the hospital as soon as possible," Harrison reasoned.
In February, following the settlement of the outstanding 2021/2022 pay issues with the Government's employees, Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke said his focus is on the implementation of the compensation restructure in the new fiscal year. The review is intended to overhaul the structure of salaries and other emoluments paid to public sector workers, and to make it more equitable. The last time teachers' pay was brought in line with 80 per cent of market rates was in 2008.
Clarke, in his presentation, said it will cost more than $100 billion to restructure the public sector compensation system over the next three years. The Government, he said, was moving to provide more equitable salaries and benefits in the sector, where it says the compensation system is burdened by 325 salary scales and 185 allowances. The Government has advised that these allowances are to be rationalised.
In the meantime, Harrison lamented the fact that three weeks into the start of the new school term, several school plants are without classroom furniture for students and teachers alike, after these were ravaged by termites during closures caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
"Having liaised with my colleagues at the start of the school year, many students do not have a seat; teachers don't have a seat, don't have a desk," she said, noting that the perennial issue has worsened because of the pandemic.
The JTA president also told the meeting that schools are still scrambling to deal with the effects of the recent exodus of teachers overseas, with some schools still interviewing for posts while still, yet others are redeploying staff to fill vacancies.