‘Enough is enough’
By LARA PICKFORD-GORDON Saturday, September 8 2012
TEACHERS were very much in the fore yesterday at the Joint Trade Union Movement’s (JTUM) march through the streets of Port-of-Spain as they signalled to the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) and Government that “enough is enough” and they are fed-up living on 2008 salaries.
Further action is expected next week as officials of the TT Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) advised its members to use next Thursday and Friday as days to rest and “reflect” on the progress, or “lack thereof”, in negotiations.
Negotiations for the new collective bargaining period 2009-2011 have been taking place between TTUTA and CPO since last year. A meeting yesterday was suspended after an electricity outage.
As a result of the teachers joining en masse in yesterday’s protest by the trade unions, classrooms at several schools across the country were without teachers. Advance notice of the protest action was given via advertisements by TTUTA and teachers also alerted their pupils so that some parents did not send their children to school.
TTUTA was among 13 unions assembled at the Brian Lara Promenade and the teachers had their own banner which said, “Only workers action can save our nation”. TTUTA first vice-president Davanand Sinanan walked side by side with OWTU president general Ancil Roget, Federation of Independent Trade Unions president Joseph Remy, president of the Transport and Industrial Workers Union (TIWU) Roland Sutherland, president of the Seamen and Waterfront Workers’ Trade Union and NATUC Michael Annisette, Rosanna Robinson of the Public Services Association and other union leaders.
Sinanan said reports which he received suggested that more than 90 percent of schools were affected. “We had thousands of teachers marching with us today. We are pleased and happy and I want to commend those teachers who made the attempt to come to the nation’s capital to express their dissatisfaction and discontent. This nonsense has to stop! It has gone on for too long,” Sinanan said.
He predicted that more teachers would protest if a resolution is not made soon. He said the country could pay a heavy price as teachers are disenchanted and disillusioned. “Their productivity will drop. Some of them have to take jobs on the side to make ends meet because they are catching their nen-nen to survive,” Sinanan said.
He accused the Government of “contempt and disrespect” to the nation’s teachers who are paid 2008 salaries.
TTUTA third vice-president Orville Carrington said that the current round of negotiations was the longest that he could recall, with negotiations starting more than two years ago and which should have ended last September.
Teachers who marched yesterday voiced frustration with the delay in a resolution being reached.
A teacher from a denominational school in Port-of-Spain, who said he is nearing retirement, described the snail’s pace of negotiations as, “damn nonsense!”
A teacher from a government secondary school in Port-of-Spain said: “I am totally fed up of the behaviour of the employer. From the inception of TTUTA to now, this round of negotiation has been the longest and still cannot be concluded. The Government and CPO keep nit picking at everything. Teachers are totally demoralised.”
A teacher from a San Fernando secondary school said, “the cost of living is going up. I don’t think people with the power to make change have any idea of the suffering teachers go through.
Government is making changes to the education system and improvements are being made but teachers need to be attended to.” Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh could not be reached for comment. Up to 6.30 pm the ministry had not issued a release regarding schools.