Teachers are expected to stay away from school today as members of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) take to the streets of Port of Spain in a mass demonstration.
TTUTA's first vice-president Davanand Sinanan told the Express yesterday in a telephone interview that the union is fed up of the "disrespect" the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) and the Ministry of Education has shown to teachers over the past two years, and whether or not there is school today is the responsibility of the authorities.
"We have called on all TTUTA members to turn out in their numbers. So we are expecting thousands of teachers to be out marching through the streets of Port of Spain.
"The intention is to send a very powerful message to the CPO and to the authorities that we are very incensed, we are very upset, we are very disenchanted with the very slow pace with which negotiations have been proceeding."
Sinanan said they are of the opinion that the CPO, who they have been meeting with every Friday for the past two and half years, is deliberately stalling the negotiation process in an effort to frustrate them.
"So we have been at the bargaining table...we have exercised tremendous patience and restraint. We have been asking our members to bear with us, but it is not taking us anywhere it seems. The CPO seems to be taking us for a ride. And we feel that we have had enough and our members are coming down on us very hard, indicating that we are being very soft with the CPO. So we have decided that it is time for decisive action.
"It is time to take the negotiations outside of the room to send a very powerful message to the CPO that we would not tolerate the disrespect and the contempt with which she has been treating us. She is making a mockery out of the whole process."
Sinanan said the fact that schools were not made ready for the new school term, which opened on Monday, has just compounded the situation.
"In many instances teachers are working in sub-standard conditions. It is bad enough to be working in 2012 with 2008 salaries, we have to deal with the other issues that are affecting the system.
"It is simply too much to be asking of teachers, we are human beings, we have feelings and we really feel at this point in time the CPO and the authorities are really treating us with contempt," Sinanan said.
He also questioned what was so special with the external market survey since they would have done at least three before this one and completed it within a year.
"That is the question that we would like to have answered. We have been doing this one for two and a half years without any end in sight," he added.