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TTUTA: Poor treatment of preschool teachers

By Julien Neaves

THE Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers' Association (TTUTA) has slammed the Education Ministry for the "disrespect" and "injustice" to teachers in the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) sector.

"The Ministry of Education cannot continue to exploit the dedication and experience of the ECCE teachers and dismiss their worth," TTUTA stated in a media release.

TTUTA reported ECCE teachers "are growing increasingly fed up with the inordinate delay of the (ministry) in responding to their concerns". The union noted for the past three years ECCE teachers have been demanding proper salaries and recognition of their status.

The union noted further in February this year the ministry had again promised to meaningfully address these matters "but to date there have been no firm timelines or documented plans advanced to the teachers".

In that month, more than 50 ECCE teachers protested outside the Education Ministry's St Clair headquarters demanding an improvement in their salaries, security of tenure and a regularisation of their positions.

The union stated: "In its thrust to reform the ECCE sector within the context of Education for All (EFA), the (ministry) has apparently ignored or dismissed the suffering of the many teachers and caregivers who have laboured painstakingly, in some cases over 20 years, to build the current system of ECCE against tremendous odds."

TTUTA, which has some of the ECCE teachers in its membership, then outlined its demands:

• ECCE teachers should be appointed in established positions and the Education Act should be amended to include these positions as part of the teaching establishment with concomitant terms and conditions of service applicable to other teachers, including the right of representation by a recognised majority union.

• Proper salaries must be paid to ECCE teachers. The current "paltry" monthly salary of $2,600 "amounts to naked exploitation of these teachers".

• A system of equivalency of qualifications and experience must be implemented as the sector is being formalised and "due recognition must be given to the skills, experience and competencies of these teachers".

• A negotiated separation package, agreed to with the association, must be put in place for those who prefer not to continue in the new arrangements or who have attained retirement age.

• Teachers remaining in the system must be given recognition for verifiable service under the previous arrangements.

• Mechanisms must be put in place to afford teachers opportunities to upgrade their qualifications.

The union called for proper guidelines to be developed for the transition from the previous arrangements to a "full, orderly, equitable absorption of these teachers into the teaching service".

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