Attorney at Law Martin George is calling for THA chief secretary and secretary for Education Kelvin Charles to fire himself after a judgement was handed down last Friday, demanding that the THA pay outstanding monies and gratuities owed to all contract teachers on the island.
Speaking at a news conference held at his Bacolet office on Monday, George said, it was determined that the THA treated the 14 teachers unequally compared to the permanent teachers on the island, as well as contract teachers in Trinidad; by paying them less and not allowing them the same amount of leave, vacation, benefits, and perquisites.
He is, therefore, questioning the THA’s use of the annual budgetary allocation for salaries and gratuities.
“When you look at the budgetary allocation of the THA each year, it is almost $3 billion and the majority of that goes toward recurrent expenditure which they claim to be using to pay bills, expenses and salaries, so if you have $3 billion and this is supposed to be paid including your salaries, why is it that so many persons in the THA are not being paid proper salaries, their salaries are paid late, some are underpaid, some are short paid, and lots of people are not paid their gratuity monies at all, so we are saying, Where is the money?, What have you done with the budgetary allocation each year?, Why are you not paying your own workers?” He said.
George said, to add insult to injury, contract teachers in Tobago are not recognised as teachers by the THA, but are being referred to as “educators;” an act he said solidified the teacher’s claim of discrimination.
He has called on THA chief secretary Kelvin Charles, who is also the secretary of Education to fire himself.
“We are calling upon Mr Kelvin Charles in his capacity as the chief secretary to discipline and further dismiss the secretary for Education (sic) because we are saying the secretary for the Education in the THA is an epic failure and we want Mr Kelvin Charles to deal with that secretary whoever he is, have that secretary removed because that secretary is not doing his job properly (sic),” he said.
Meanwhile, Nadia Phillips and Zorisha Hackett, two out of the 14 teachers who brought the action against the THA, said their action was not just about money, but the mere principle of receiving their just due.
Hackett told the media, after working with the Division of Education for approximately nine years and not having proper contracts, she was disenfranchised when she was unable to be paid for her maternity leave.
“There was never a scenario where we negotiated, where we could go through the terms and conditions and agree to, we were already in the system and then asked to sign these contracts, so it came as a shock to us,” Hackett said.
Assemblyman Farley Augustine who was also a contract teacher faced similar issues. He said, since assuming duties as a teacher in 2010, he has never received gratuities. He said all seemed well until he was elected as an Assemblyman in 2017. Augustine said, he did not resign and he was not formally fired, however, he was not allowed to continue his teaching commitments.
“I never received written notice that I was fired. It’s only when I went to school in September of 2017, the principal indicated that he was given instructions from the Division of Education not to allow me to sign into the register as a teacher,” he said.
He also put the THA on notice that he plans to take legal action.
Last Friday, Justice David Harris ordered the THA to pay an interest at 2.5 per cent per annum on the monies due to the teachers from the date of filing the claim, to the date of Judgment, as well as an interest at 5 per cent per annum on all outstanding monies due, from the date of judgment to the date of payment.
Monies are to be paid immediately.
Reporter: Cassandra Thompson-Forbes