Empty pockets

TEACHERS who have not received a salary since September are still without their pay despite promises by the Ministry of Education that they would be remunerated last Thursday and Friday.

Up to press time, none of the 270 teachers across the island, which the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) claims are affected by the non-payment, have seen any money credited to their accounts.

Last week Tuesday, a number of the teachers told the Jamaica Obser
ver that they were yet to receive their salaries for September and October and had rejected claims by the Ministry of Education and Youth that the reason for the delay in the payments was because some documents were submitted late and did not meet the cut-off for payroll periods.

President of the JTA La Sonja Harrison told the Observer last week that the ministry keeps making the argument about late submission of documentation which is not an acceptable explanation.

“If the documentation [for] September went in late, it would mean that you must be on the payroll for October. Why are you not on it for October? I can’t understand. So even if the documentation was late, because that is one of the reasons espoused, to say the principal would not have submitted the documentation early enough in September, but by October, you should be paid, because you would’ve been very early for October,” argued Harrison.

Harrison said the situation is very frustrating for teachers because they are not getting much money, “and for you not to get paid and expected to go to work everyday and you have your own business spoiling.”

The JTA president charged that there is a perennial problem of teachers who are not paid for several months, with “even persons who have been in school for two, three years, all of a sudden they just drop off the ministry’s payroll.”

The Observer also learnt that 12 teachers at one Corporate Area school were also not paid over the two months and did not accept the ministry’s explanation.

“This slackness at the ministry has been an ongoing one. I’ve made several social media posts, and I’ve had veteran teachers complain…teachers have continuously gone months without salary, and within that time, we have received no hand-me-downs from anybody but we are expected to fulfil every single obligation that we have both professional wise and personal wise. It’s a lot,” one teacher said.

She told the Observer that she has been teaching for over seven years, and had the experience more than four times during her tenure at various schools.

“This is my fourth school. So it is a fact that the issue is not with the institutions themselves but with who is paying us. The salary department of the Ministry of Education is completely slack and not being held accountable. Years, on top of years, on top of years [this has been happening] and I really and truly believe that it needs to come to a stop because the teaching profession is from where every other profession comes,” she fumed.

Two other teachers from the school echoed her sentiments of unacceptable treatment by the Ministry of Education,

Permanent secretary in the Education Ministry, Maureen Dwyer, however, argued that the issue is not very widespread and last week Tuesday told the Observer that any teacher who was not paid would have been paid later that week.

She explained that documents coming in late is a continual problem, particularly the 503 Form which is required to process some salaries. “The payroll starts at a certain time and it ends at a certain time, and if we stop the payroll then everybody will be paid late,” she said.

“So those who come in after the cut-off date, what we have to do and generally, we do this a lot, is to create another pay cycle because we cannot stop the entire 20,000-odd persons who are paid from the ministry for a few. So we have to do those and then we do another pay date. So those that are out of the cycle will be paid today and tomorrow,” she said, adding that they will get both their September and October salaries at that time.

Dwyer said she had a conversation with the JTA president “to have her send me her database so that I can know what she is seeing vis a vis what we are seeing at the ministry, so that we can mop up any loose ends”.

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