Teachers from a number of Jamaican public schools staged an island-wide protest on Friday against the government’s harsh wage-control policies.

TeachersSome teachers held sit-ins at lunchtime while others wore black clothes to show their distress, but no regular classes were disrupted, according to Doran Dixon, president of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTC).

Dixon said the protest was a spontaneous response of teachers around the country to the government’s recent proposal of a 5-percent salary increase after a five-year freeze.

To secure an economic reform program which decides whether the country can gain support from the International Monetary Fund, the Jamaican government has carried out a series of austerity fiscal measures over the past years, including a wage freeze for public sector workers.

While the five-year freeze ended in March, the government proposed increasing public sector wages by 5 percent in the next two years — a 3-percent increase in the first year and a 2-percent in the next.

The proposal drew protests by several labor unions, including the JTC, which insisted the adjustment should take into account inflation. Little progress has been achieved on the issue after several rounds of bargaining.

Friday’s protest came after Horace Dalley, minister of public service, told media on Thursday that he understood the difficulty to accept the adjustment, but the offer would not change.

“We have tried our best, we can’t offer more now, we are in the middle of our economic reform program. This is year two, we can’t mash it up,” he said.

However, Dixon complained that the government has been sluggish to find a way to address the dispute.

Source: Xinhua


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