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Better days are coming
Education Minister Anthony Garcia yesterday pleaded with teachers to be patient as he was optimistic that the economy will turn around.
He was responding to threats of a September boycott over stalled salary negotiations by the teachers’ union.
Commenting on failing grade T&T’s education system received at the Joint Trade Union Movement’s (JTUM) annual Labour Day rally in Fyzabad and the boycott threat, Garcia said, “I am the eternal optimist and I am asking our teachers, and I am extending this to the population, hold some strain, better days are coming.”
In an interview at Naparima College yesterday, Garcia said that he expected JTUM to give T&T’s education a failing grade as it was customary for unions to do so. However, he was convinced that the Ministry has done an excellent job compared to its operations before the People’s National Movement took over the Government in September 2015.
Garcia said that during his tenure as president of the T&T Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA), he also took part in Labour Day demonstrations and gave the teaching profession a failing grade.
“This is because we felt we just had to say something. However, today I am convinced that the Ministry of Education has been doing a tremendous job. In fact, when we came into office in 2015 and we compare what has been going on now, we see a tremendous stride in education. We have been able to achieve so many things and that makes us proud. We are very confident that the education system is moving in the right direction,” Garcia said.
During Labour Day celebrations at Avocat Junction, Fyzabad, Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) president Lynsley Doodhai warned that unless the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) commences negotiation with the union for the period 2014-2017, classrooms would be without teachers at the beginning of the new school year in September.
Doodhai said that the union submitted proposals to the CPO in 2015 and have not yet received any response. Now, teachers are frustrated and angry as the cost of living has significantly increased over the past three years.
In response, Garcia said that he sympathises with every worker who has difficulty in making ends meet but repeated Government’s explanation that the country was experiencing financial problems.
Like Doodhai, Garcia recalled Finance Minister Colm Imbert mid-year budget review, in which he said the economy had turned a corner. Garcia said he expects these issues to be resolved soon.
However, he stressed that negotiation of collective agreements was not a function of the Ministry as that was the responsibility of the CPO. He added that if Doodhai threatened empty classrooms, he would refer him to President Paula Mae Weekes inauguration speech in which she encouraged citizens to engage in productivity.
“So if he wants to close down schools, that tells us the thinking of the union. We must engage in productivity. Our teachers must be there so that our students will be able to benefit from the quality of education that we are committed to providing. The Chief Personnel Officer has the responsibility for negotiating terms and conditions of service for all public servants and that is totally out of our hands.”
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