$6.68 salary paid to teacher ‘blatantly false’, says education ministry

THE Ministry of Education has described as “blatantly false” a claim that a teacher in Westmoreland received $6.68 as salary in March.

The ministry was responding to a story published by the Jamaica Observer on May 26 in which the president of the Westmoreland Chapter of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), Kerry Ann Wolliston, was quoted as saying, “There was even a teacher in my parish who got $6.68 for her salary in March and was not paid the correct amount up until now.”

According to the ministry, it has confirmed that the monthly salaries for the referenced teacher, net of all deductions (including deductions to a credit union), were $58,798.79 in March, $91,935,63 in April, and $358,208.35 in May (which included retroactive payments).

“For background, the teacher is a temporarily employed, pre-trained teacher who is currently substituting for another teacher who is on secondment.

“The ministry has been waiting for the pre-trained teacher to deliver her transcript to the ministry so that she can be upgraded and compensated accordingly. To date, the transcript has not been received from the teacher,” said the education ministry in a statement to the Observer on Tuesday.

The ministry said it continues to request from JTA President La Sonja Harrison the specifics of any teacher’s situation so the matters can be researched.

“Generalities, without specific names of teachers, make it impossible to research as each teacher has a unique pay slip. Additionally, specifics of the teachers’ situation help with the turnaround time as demonstrated by the following two examples that Mrs Harrison brought to our attention,” the ministry said.

The ministry pointed to a case in which, it said, it was contacted by Harrison about a teacher who had not received her April salary up to May 2.

“Kindly note the above name and school of a teacher for more than 30 years who is yet to receive her salary. She is a cancer survivor in need of monies to purchase her medication. Please assist this situation urgently,” the ministry quoted the message.

According to the ministry, when Minister of Education Fayval Williams contacted the Payroll Department she was told:

“Teacher, Mrs [name omitted], was paid salary. She had also contacted the unit re retroactive, which was paid to her March 2023 correctly and senior teacher retroactive paid April 2023.”

The education ministry further argued that it was clear from this example that Harrison “is getting incorrect information”.

The ministry also pointed to a claim it said was made by the JTA president on May 28 that two teachers in an infant school and another teacher in a different infant school had not received their salaries.

According to the ministry, it investigated the claim and it found that no continuation letter was received for payment to two teachers while the teacher in the other infant school was reportedly on no-pay leave and no resumption letter was received.

“Again, these examples show that Mrs Harrison is not getting the full and correct information in its entirety. It would appear that mischief abounds and calls from Mrs Harrison to disrupt the education sector should be very carefully examined in light of the misinformation as demonstrated by these examples,” said the education ministry.

It said it maintains that orderly reporting of specific teachers’ issues, such as the two examples cited in the press release, have been researched and responses given and this will continue as the specific issues come to its attention.

“Generalities do not give enough information to the payroll department to do adequate and timely research in order to respond.

“The [ministry] has published several telephone numbers for teachers to call to report their specific situation. The [ministry] also has an e-mail address to which teachers can send the specifics of their situation,” said the education ministry.

According to the ministry, the minister has said she respects the rights of the JTA to advocate on behalf of its members. “However, she calls for rationality to prevail and for the specifics of the teachers’ situation to be presented to the education ministry to allow adequate research and response. A destabilised education sector serves no one.”

The ministry also claimed that there was on-time payment of salaries and subventions to teachers for May.

Several teachers responded to a call from Harrison and stayed off the job last Thursday and Friday before talks at the Ministry of Labour on Friday saw them returning to the classrooms on Monday.

The talks were scheduled to resume at the labour ministry Tuesday, but up to press time there was no word out of that meeting.