Early childhood care and education (ECCE) teachers are being treated unfairly by the Ministry of Education, said Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) president Martin Lum Kin.
Yesterday, TTUTA members protested outside the Ministry of Education’s head office in Port of Spain to express their concerns about what they called the unequal treatment being dished out to ECCE teachers. “Our grouse right now is the terms and conditions under which our teachers in the ECCE sector are being employed,” Lum Kin said. He said the existing contracts were problematic and one of the pressing issues was the renewal of those contracts, as teachers were made to reapply and had to be re-interviewed in order to have their contracts renewed, but through the intervention of TTUTA this was changed.
“Now when the contracts are presented, its an abridged contract with just three terms and conditions. The length of the contract, three years, the salary and 20 days’ vacation per year for the contract,” he said. “They (ECCE teachers) are not being treated equally as other teachers. In the case of the contract, they are taking a generic contract from the public service and trying to utilise it in the teaching service which has its own peculiarities, “We are saying that they should have adjusted these contracts in order to be utilised in the teaching service.
“The ECCE sector follows the education system and the education sector of primary and secondary so vacation is afforded at the same time. The teachers are on vacation at the same time in the primary and secondary sector when their students are on vacation, however, the Ministry of Education is asking these teachers to report for duty at the centres during this vacation,” he added.
“To do what? What good is this? They are coming to supervise what?” Lum Kin asked. He said TTUTA would be meeting with the permanent secretary today to discuss these issues.
Education Minister Nyan Gadsby-Dolly told TV6 yesterday that ECCE teachers were allowed to take their 20-day vacation during the school vacation period if they so wished.
She explained that preceding her tenure, ECCE teachers were allowed to take the July-August vacation at home but some of those teachers also applied for their 20-day vacation during the school term. Teachers appointed under the Teaching Service Commission were not allowed such flexibility with regard to vacation, she stated.
Gadsby-Dolly said one such case reached the Industrial Court and it was determined that workers were entitled to their 20-day vacation leave at any time during the year.
“The ultimate solution is a legislative change in the Education Act to recognise the ECCE teachers as part of the teaching service,” said the minister.
She also said such a move would entail changes in the process of appointment as well as the qualifications of the teachers that would be required.
She said the Ministry was currently in discussions with the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) to specify a vacation period within the school holidays for ECCE teachers.
A meeting is to be held today on this matter, she said. “It cannot be that the ECCE teachers benefit from the school holidays and still have 20-day vacation leave outside of that,” she reiterated.
Gadsby-Dolly said the legislative amendments to the Education Act were currently before the Chief Parliamentary Council (CPC) for consideration.