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The Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) and the Government officially signed off on a wage and fringe benefits package yesterday (October 27).
The 2008 to 2010 agreement, stipulates that teachers’ salaries will be increased to 80 per cent of the existing private sector market and that they will be paid retroactively in three payments from December to June 2009.
Addressing the signing ceremony held at the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service’s, Heroes Circle headquarters in Kingston, Minister of Education, Andrew Holness, said that he was very relieved that the negotiations were settled without any dislocation to the education system.
“This agreement will see teachers being moved in a significant way towards market. It will also see an increase in the education budget and it is only right that the teachers are the first beneficiaries of this increase in education expenditure,” he pointed out.
“The government has an objective to increase and improve the level of performance of our students and . therefore we expect from our teachers a higher level of performance,” he said.
He pointed out that steps have already been undertaken to establish the Jamaica Teachers Council, which will work with teachers to develop the professional regulatory body for teaching in Jamaica. This he said will provide for greater accountability in the profession.
“In other words the performance of the teachers will now be tied to the results of the students and the results of the students will now be tied to the performance of the teachers,” he said.
“I think we have reached a point now in Jamaica where we can say that…we can in, a more direct way hold teachers accountable [for their performance] whilst we try to get a hold of the other variables [which will have an impact] in the classroom,” he disclosed.
In his remarks, Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Audley Shaw, informed that the agreement would place an additional $15 billion on the national budget.
He noted that the agreement was integral to the transformation of the education system, adding that “it is integral to the whole notion of how we are going to build a society that is based on notions of peace, prosperity and notions of having a well educated population.”
Mr. Shaw noted that the agreement should be treated “as partnership going forward. Let us understand that there are roles and responsibilities that must be respected and the people of this country and the children of this country, the citizens of Jamaica are expecting from this agreement, performance,” he implored.
Meanwhile, President of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association, Doran Dixon, expressed pleasure at the negotiations being settled and encouraged teachers to give their best.
“We commit to ensuring that the education system is transformed and we are full partners in the education transformation project…and building the nation”, he said.
Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, Senator Dwight Nelson, noted that “the agreement provides a number of highlights, separate and apart from wage and salary increases.”
These include increases in: books, software and technology allowance; transportation allowance for teachers with special responsibility; protective clothing allowance; training for teachers that have been assigned to basic schools; special duty allowance; and specialist teaching.