Hours ahead of tomorrow's meeting with Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) delegates to decide whether to accept the Government's most recent salary offer in the group's ongoing wage talks, JTA president Winston Smith is making it clear that his organisation is not being antagonistic towards the Government.
Speaking to The Gleaner today following his keynote address at the inauguration service for the executive committee of Anchovy High School's Past Students' Association in St James, Smith said that both sides must be willing to have amicable discussions on the issue.
“Views will always contend, and I cannot challenge or crucify someone for having a different thought. What we want to do is to sit around the table and discuss the matter in a manner that will redound [contribute greatly] to the benefit of both sides,” said the JTA president.
“We just have to be honest and straightforward and put all cards on the table. One thing I do know is that whatever the delegates say is what I will have to speak to, because the JTA is not the president; it is all of us working collectively as one unified body.”
The JTA has already rejected the Government's previous offer of a four per cent salary increase, in the ongoing back-and-forth discourse over wages and benefits. The Government has not revealed its latest salary offer, or what benefits are attached to the offer.
Wage negotiations between the JTA and the Government go as far back as 2015, when the JTA submitted a wage claim for a 25 per cent increase over two years; in contrast to the five per cent increase the Government was offering at the time.
In the last few years, Jamaica has experienced a migration of teachers to foreign lands, having been lured away by better salaries and benefits. Last year June, former JTA president Owen Speid cited that as the reason approximately 500 educators took on overseas employment just before the global COVID-19 outbreak.