Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness, has publicly appealed to the Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA) and its membership to accept the Government’s offer, and end the impasse over payment of outstanding retroactive salaries.
Mr. Holness said that the current deadlock between the teachers and the Government on the payment issue has been a burden on his shoulders, since last week.
Addressing the official opening of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Campus, in the Caledonia Mall, Mandeville, on Friday (May 7), the Education Minister abandoned his prepared text to plead for the teachers considerations.
“This morning I had long conversations with the JTA, and I want to take this platform to make a public appeal to the JTA and to our teachers, notwithstanding the difficulties I know the teachers are going through,” he said.
Minister of Education, Hon Andrew Holness, about to cut the ribbon for the official opening of the UWI Open Campus in Mandeville, on Friday (May 7). Pro Vice Chancellor and Principal of the UWI Open Campus, Professor Hazel Simmons-McDonald, stands next to the minister.
Mr. Holness expressed the view that it is not an unreasonable sentiment, on the part of the teachers, to ask that they be paid what is due to them. But, he said, the fact of the matter is that “the government cannot and dare not break the commitment it has made towards fiscal responsibility”.
“We are now, for the first time, at a point of reckoning where we are seeing our way out of almost an eternal financial crisis. We have passed a piece of legislation called the Fiscal Responsibility Legislation, and once we have announced what the deficit target is, we cannot and dare not break those deficit targets”, he explained.
He said that it is in light of those facts he is appealing to the JTA, to accept the government’s latest offer, in the interest of the nation.
“There have been some comments that I know would have hardened some positions. At this time I would like to express my regret at those comments, and to say to our teachers, in spite of everything, let us put that aside and look towards the future,” he stated.
He emphasized that both the teachers and the Government are of the view that education is the foundation of the nation, and as such appealed for a holding of hands to build that foundation.
“And that is my solemn plea, to have a resolution to the present impasse”, he pleaded.