Teacher seeks settlement over discriminatory practices

POSTED: 07/11/13 12:21 PM

St. Maarten -The Windward Islands Teachers Union (Witu) is seeking an out of Court settlement for one of its members who filed an injunction against the government for discriminatory practices with regard to salary payments. Witu wants this course to be pursued by the Education Minister since its member has been facing serious financial difficulty since the case began. Mortgage and salary payments have been delayed and according to union president Claire Elshot her member is now in “serious jeopardy.”

The case, as she recounted, involves a male teacher, who in the public education system, had a contract over the sixties. The contract ended but one day short of the opening of the new school year that teacher was re-employed.

“He did not get his salary in August and September. Some people just consider it normal and they wait because they know that certain things have to be fixed with the administration, especially when you are on contract, so that the payments can be forthcoming.”

Elshot said that it was only in October, the teacher was told that he would be an “on-call teacher” and only be paid for the days that he worked.

“Already the teacher filed a protest, wrote a letter to the then Minister saying he did not agree, went to the Ombudsman about this case and finally ended up at the union who also guided the process of having an injunction filed at the Court for Civil Servants. The last contract that the teacher had stated that if he would continue, the same conditions would apply and now the conditions were being changed.”

This is blatant discrimination, Elshot stated, because at the school where this case was reported, there is another teacher who accepted contract terms, like Wiclu’s member, but while on sick leave enjoys the full regular salary.

“This has had a very negative impact especially on the member’s mortgage payments because every time you are late in payment there is a penalty. He went to the extent of having that the case be reviewed and nothing was corrected by the former minister while the teacher continued to work up to the end of June.”

Elshot said that last Thursday, she was made aware by the teacher, that his salary for May and June as well as his vacation allowance were not paid. It was only on Thursday that the teacher learnt that as an “on-call” teacher, he would not be entitled to a vacation allowance.

“This is very strange and is discrimination. It is against all principles of decent work and the right to work,” Elshot said.

The union hopes to reach an agreement with the Education Ministry, following which it will advise its member to discontinue the case in Court.  During a meeting with the ministry on Monday, the union sat with its financial controller to review the salary history of the complainant. Two other teachers have also experienced a similar situation, Witu says.

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