The Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) is pressing government to take the necessary steps to ensure that increments due to teachers are paid to them.
Speaking over the weekend on the popular “Sundays, with George Grant” Program, last Sunday. GUT President Lydon Lewis said that the union intends to pursue the matter even if it has to reach the court for settlement.
Lewis said he has written to Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell who also holds the portfolio of Minister of Finance about the payments due to teachers, but was not satisfied with the response given by him.
He spoke of Dr. Mitchell directing him to raise the issue with the committee that was set up by the 20-month old ruling New National Party (NNP) administration to monitor the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP).
The cash-strapped Mitchell government has not been paying most of its creditors especially those at the international level.
According to the GUT boss, the increment matter should be discussed at the level of the Cabinet of Ministers and that he should not be referred to the committee.
He said the union has been left with little or no choice but to seek legal advice with a view to getting some form of redress in the law courts.
“We are not going to accept it, it would not be part of our mandate, we are not going to accept that as part of the Structural Adjustment Program,” he remarked.
Lewis reminded the host of the program that GUT had earlier turned down a request from the Mitchell administration to freeze increments during the three-year life of SAP which took effect at the start of 2014.
He pointed out that increments are legally payable to teachers who have additional qualifications.
He complained that a teacher who holds a Master’s Degree in Grenada is not paid in keeping with that qualification as the system does not recognise that level of education.
According to the GUT President, as a means of rectifying the problem, the union negotiated a benefit package for persons holding a Master’s Degree.
Lewis said it was agreed that these teachers will receive one increment as an incentive, but it has since been cut by the Ministry of Education which is now giving the teachers a one off payment instead of their increments.
Another challenge facing GUT at the moment is the delay in the payment of some teachers who are already in the classroom.
Lewis charged that some teachers who have been in the service in the last six to nine years are not being paid on a timely basis by the Treasury.
He said that some teachers are in a quandary because they are only recognised to be on the job when the position is rectified in the system.
He went on to say that from last year, the Ministry of Education started cutting the appointments and offered these teachers one year contracts.
“We intend to make it a legal action. You cannot convert these long terms to one year contract,” he said.
In addition, he said the problem is further compounded with the Ministry cutting the salaries of almost every temporary teacher.
Lewis spoke of teachers from Carriacou who are now at the Teacher’s Collage bearing the brunt of the pressure as they have not received salaries for the last two months.
He added that he was recently visited by a group of teachers from the Happy Hill Secondary School who complained of having difficulties in receiving their salaries.
He said these teachers reported to him that they went to the Ministry of Education to discuss their problem but was instead chastised by one of the Officers for being away from the classroom.