PRESIDENT of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) Winston Smith is optimistic that the Government will return to the negotiating table with a better wage offer for educators.
At a special virtual delegates' conference on Friday, teachers rejected the Government's four per cent wage offer, based on items of a claim made for the contract period April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2023.
A release from the union pointed out that a total of 413 delegates voted, of which 244 rejected the offer, 163 accepted and six abstained.
“After a long meeting with the delegates, they have voted to reject the offer presented by the Government of Jamaica after going through each item of the claim line by line and [with] extensive discussions,” Smith told the Jamaica Observer on Friday.
“We will be conveying that information to the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service. I am anticipating that the ministry will respond to us. We still have two months and two weeks before the end of the financial year and we are hoping that within that time we can make a deal,” Smith added.
Opting not to discuss much about the claim, Smith pointed nevertheless to one item — book and software allowance — that the teachers believe is in need of improvement.
“Especially in light of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and the fact that they are still willing and committed to go out face to face. The teachers think that the Government could have offered something better in the items throughout the claim. The book software allowance is one item that runs through the entire fabric of the teaching profession that will make all teachers better off,” he said.
“I hope the right persons are willing to take the necessary steps to make sure that the education sector rebounds quickly because it's not just fear of COVID-19 and what is happening in the education sector, it's the availability of the teachers and willingness of the teachers to go out, and they have to be motivated, especially at a time like this,” Smith added.
In an exclusive interview with the Observer in November last year, Smith dispelled rumours that educators were greedy and unreasonable as he equated the Government's four per cent wage offer to a show of pity for professionals who deserve to be properly compensated for their hard work.
“The teachers of Jamaica are painted in the public space as though we are craven, greedy, gluttonous, lazy, and worthless people who are just there to raid the coffers of the country, and that is not true,” Smith had said.
So far, 31 bargaining units representing public sector workers have accepted Government's four per cent increase for a year.