TTUTA preps for elections amid CPO wage talks

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

TTUTA members protest outside the Personnel Department, St Vincent Street, Port of Spain during wage negotiations in July 2019. The teachers union is due to meet the CPO on June 17 in current negotiations. – FILE PHOTO

The TT Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) national elections has been scheduled for October 18 and there are two challengers for president.

The first is the current president, Antonia De Freitas, and the second is Martin Lum Kin.

According to a TTUTA press release on Friday, 13 people were nominated to contest the elections of the six elected national officers.

Nominated for first vice president are Adesh Dwarika, a dean at Aranguez North Secondary and Ekka Natasha Mc Fee of Cascade School for the Deaf. For second vice president is Marsha Nicole Huggins of Marabella South Secondary and Jeervon Collin Purcell of Claxton Bay Senior AC Primary.

The nominees for third vice president are Natasha Baran-Ramtahal of Sangre Grande Government Primary, Dillon Chad Harracksingh of Moruga Secondary, and Gregory Hilary Subero of Tabaquite RC Primary.

For general secretary, the nominees are Kady Suzette Beckles of Rio Claro East Secondary and Colleen Barbaste-Jackson of North Eastern College. And for treasurer, Cuthbert Curlan Joseph of St Francis Boys’ College, Belmont and Vyshall Nandlal of Happy Hill Hindu Primary.

The nominations took place as several trade unions marched in Port of Spain on Friday in protest against a wage offer from the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) of two per cent over an eight-year period.

TTUTA is expected to meet with CPO Dr Daryl Dindial to continue salary negotiations on June 17.

Outgoing TTUTA first vice president Marlon Seales said the association negotiated on market surveys rather than percentage increases. And the most recent survey was agreed upon by the CPO office and the union on Monday.

He told Sunday Newsday even before the CPO got permission to begin negotiations, a sub-committee worked on gathering data from companies, industrial courts and other sources on over 150 jobs nationally, regionally and internationally, which were used to benchmark what various educators in the teaching service should be paid.

“However, in the past, our experience is, for the most part, we haven’t gotten a closure of the gap. When we come at the end of the exercise, a teacher at a secondary school with a certain number of duties to perform, with an entrance requirement of a degree and a professional certification, should be paid $X. But when we look at what teachers are currently being paid, it’s behind the market.”

He said the data for the recently approved market survey was current up to 2017 as the first negotiation period was 2015-2017. What would be done for the other negotiation periods would have to be discussed since he was unsure if data points beyond 2017 were collected.

“When you look at what was offered to the other trade unions they were looking at 2021 but our general council gave the negotiation team leave to discuss a three-year period. We can’t go beyond that.

“While the CPO wants to close off the negotiations and to get everybody current, the law dictates that people negotiate in three or five periods. So we can’t just move away from that.”

Seales said the union and the CPO have been using the same method to develop a market survey with measured success for the last three or four negotiation periods.

They already had discussions where Dindial proposed a package and non-salary items were discussed. However, he said the package was “kindly refused” because there was no mandate from the general council to accept any package outside the market survey.

“These things are principles agreed to and signed on. It’s about facts and math. We are really careful with the documentation so it’s not up to anyone’s interpretation that we could just move away from it. We don’t want a CPO or an officer deciding to do this thing quick and take a 15 per cent. It cannot work like that unless there is an agreement to move away from the market survey methodology.”

He added that TTUTA focuses on salaries rather than allowances because non-salary items generally only benefit a small group of its members and salaries were what determined pension packages.