THE Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) is claiming victory as several schools were forced to close on day one of its two-day "rest and reflect" protest after teachers, and pupils, failed to turn up.
"We are very happy by the response, it shows that people and parents are in support of us," says TTUTA first vice-president Davanand Sinanan.
Fed up with the slow pace of negotiations with the chief personnel officer (CPO), which had been ongoing for the period of October 2008-September 2011 since July 2010, TTUTA had issued a call for its members to "rest and reflect" yesterday and today.
"And from all the reports we can say that 75 per cent of the teachers, from across the country, stayed away from classes yesterday and we look forward to (today)," Sinanan added.
Asked why they chose to protest in this manner less than two weeks into the new school term, Sinanan responded: "Why didn't the CPO conclude negotiations when school was closed?
"We were meeting with the CPO all along hoping that we would be able to go into the new school term with some peace of mind, but they have chosen to stall the negotiations.
"And let me just add, that in the past, we have protested during the holidays and even on Saturdays, but we have run out of patience," Sinanan added.
During the course of the day, Sinanan said they had received two reports that officials from the Ministry of National Security were visiting schools inquiring about teacher presence.
"We were concerned about that, but since then we have not had any further reports," he said.
TTUTA is expected to meet with the CPO today at 9:30 a.m. for another round of negotiations, which have centered on the review of the methodology utilised since 2000 to determine revised salaries.
Specifically, the External Labour Market Survey, which is in keeping with the terms of a letter of understanding signed on October 2, 2007 by the CPO and TTUTA for a comprehensive review of the methodology utilised in the past.
The ELM survey will provide information on the characteristics of jobs held by teachers, such as wage rates and work schedules.
"As far as I know the meeting is still on. We have not asked the teachers to join us, but we will have a small contingent there," Sinanan said.
Conversely, Hansley Ajodha, communications director at the Ministry of Education, said from all their reports, only 49 per cent of the teaching staff was absent, while 46 per cent of the pupils failed to attend classes.