Sun | Jun 16, 2024

Crawford pitches solutions to roll over funds for teachers amid stalemate

Published:Thursday | March 9, 2023 | 1:22 AMAsha Wilks/Gleaner Writer
Opposition Spokesman on Education Damion Crawford said the funds earmarked to pay teacher this financial year could be held in escrow and disbursed in 2023-2024.
Opposition Spokesman on Education Damion Crawford said the funds earmarked to pay teacher this financial year could be held in escrow and disbursed in 2023-2024.

Opposition Spokesman on Education and Training Senator Damion Crawford is maintaining that the Government’s latest wage offer to the teachers under a restructuring exercise is unreasonable.

The teachers voted 346-227 to reject the offer during a special delegates conference at The Mico University College in Kingston on Wednesday.

Speaking with The Gleaner shortly after the announcement of the result, Crawford said the offer was not acceptable given the circumstances being faced by teachers such as escalating food costs, rising inflation, and their inability to pay bills, including mortgages.

“They (teachers) have made real sacrifices to get us to where we are, and I think it’s reasonable time for them to be considered with a reasonable offer, and I hope the next offer is a reasonable offer,” he said.

Teachers across the island have been engaged in demonstration of wage offers being made by the Government as part of its restructuring of the public sector compensation packages since Monday. Again, on Wednesday, teachers took to the streets in protest, others have staged sit-ins or called in sick, and in some cases, teachers have not turned up for work in an effort to demand a better wage proposal.

The protests could continue today.

During a press conference, Crawford urged teachers not to be dissuaded in their quest for higher salaries by the Government’s claim that if a wage agreement is not reached soon to allow for the payment of retroactive sums by the end of this month, when the financial year ends, they will not start receiving the back wages until 2024-2025.

He proposed three options for resolving the issues.

“Firstly, the ministry and the minister should and could place funds currently available in escrow, which is facilitated by the law, which essentially states that all funds must be spent in the year budgeted except as is provided by law, which an escrow should qualify,” he said.

The senator, who has spent many years himself as an educator, added that this would have no impact on the upcoming 2023-2024 Budget.

Furthermore, Crawford stated that Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke could put the money in a specific contingency fund within the 2023-2024 Budget, to be distributed upon reaching an agreement.

Lastly, Crawford noted that Clarke could also announce a supplementary budget with allocations and reallocations where necessary “as have been done four times last time by the same minister and multiple times before by this ministry”.

He recommended that the Government pay instructors a gross salary of no less than $291,000 in order to provide them with a liveable wage.

asha.wilks@gleanerjm.com