Ministry officials scramble to minimise fallout amid teachers' protest

JTA President La Sonja Harrison
By Halshane Burke/Clinton McGregor 
Officials in the Ministry of Education are scrambling to minimise the fallout from the strike action taken by teachers on Thursday.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry Maureen Dwyer says the regional directors are to provide details on the extent of the impact of the industrial action by the teachers.
Administrators at schools across seven parishes were largely caught flat footed as teachers opted to withdraw their service to press the government over the thorny issue of the compensation review of the public sector.
Teachers in Westmoreland, St. Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon, St. Catherine, Kingston, St. Andrew and St. Thomas kicked off their expected two-day strike action Thursday morning following a call to action by President of the Jamaica Teachers' Association, La Sonja Harrison.
Representatives of the Ministry of Education have been locked in meetings to determine the course of action in light of a reported plan to continue the protest into next week and include more teachers.
The teachers are upset that their concerns over the anomalies and discrepancies in their pay under the compensation review have largely been ignored by the Ministry of Finance.
The JTA president said the teachers answered the call to stay away from the classroom. 
She said despite reaching out to the Ministries of Finance and Education, the JTA has received no response to their request for further dialogue on the issues affecting teachers.
Finance Minister Dr. Nigel Clarke, speaking at a post-Cabinet media briefing on Wednesday, said he was prepared to meet with the JTA and other public sector groups with similar concerns.
The JTA president said teachers are resolute in their request for the government to urgently address their concerns, and are not ruling out a continuation of the protest into next week.
Mrs Harrison urged the Ministry of Finance to call the JTA to the table to discuss the difficulties facing the teachers. 
She also called for the Finance Ministry to promptly acknowledge the JTA's request in order to prevent an escalation of the protest. 

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