By Halshane Burke/Kimone Witter
Students across several parishes who made their way to school on Thursday morning were forced to return home as teachers made good on their promise to take industrial action.
The educators have been rallied by the Jamaica Teachers' Association to mount industrial action as the impasse with the government over anomalies in their new compensation drags on.
The teachers say they have been plagued by incorrect and late pay among other issues.
The JTA says after months of dialogue with the government, no resolution has been forthcoming to the issues raised with the Ministers of Finance and Education both in person and in written communication.
JTA President La Sonja Harrison told educators they must take a stand to show their displeasure with the situation.
"This continued disrepect, disregard for us as teachers is unacceptable. We must arise and register our displeasure. To make a bad situation worse, those who have received their salaries for this month are confirming discrepancies are yet to be fixed. It is time to act," she urged.
A release sent out by the JTA said teachers in Westmoreland, St. Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon, St. Catherine, Kingston and St. Andrew and St. Thomas are to take industrial action Thursday and Friday.
On Monday and Tuesday of next week, teachers in the other parishes - Hanover, St. James, Trelawny, St. Ann, St. Mary and Portland will protest.
The JTA said all teachers will stay off the job on May 31 and June 1.
The teachers are calling for the formula used in the calculation of salaries to be made public.
They also want re-calculations to be done to fix discrepancies in their salaries.
The JTA has also urged the government to establish the technical committee it had announced to correct the anomalies in salaries paid to teachers.
A senior teacher at St. Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS), Petrene Chambers, said the granting of significant salary increases to the political directorate is unfair to teachers.
Ms Chambers, who stayed off the job Thursday, suggested that politicians are not deserving of the pay hike.
"Persons in Parliament who don't even have a first degree are being compensated [with] 300 per cent increases. And it's unfair. It's unfair to us as teachers who work hard, who are educated, and we are left at the bottom of the pile," she said, adding that unlike teachers, parliamentarians do not have a job description.
She also called for there to be a differentiation between senior teachers and classroom teachers, noting that senior teachers "are the ones who do the bulk of the work in schools and we're still not being compensated".
STETHS Principal Keith Wellington said about 50 per cent of teachers as well as students were in attendance Thursday.
"Because of the absence of teachers and students, we would not be able to have our normal timetabled activities. However, those members of staff who are here have taken on the responsibility of ensuring that the students are properly occupied during the course of the day," he said.
School ended at 11:00 a.m. for students at Yallahs High School in St. Thomas due to the strike action by teachers.
Principal Mark Malabver said less than 20 per cent of teachers turned out.
There was also a low turnout among students.
Mr. Malabver urged the Ministry of Finance to engage with the teachers and address the outstanding issues.
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