TT Unified Teachers’ Association president Antonia De Freitas said Friday’s convention with teachers from four school districts was to share information and get feedback on some of the burning issues affecting teachers, including negotiations. current wages and poor working conditions.
In an interview on Saturday, De Freitas said: “The union speaks from the heart of the members and if they don’t consult the union and then the members, the practitioners have no say in policy-making and implementation. policy plans, so we really and truly sought to empower our members during the convention.”
This year’s theme was Transforming Education Begins with Teachers.
Teachers from the Northeast Districts, Port of Spain, Victoria and Tobago participated in the convention, with the other districts opting for an independent convention.
De Freitas said, “As a union, we need to increase our membership participation, make it more inclusive so that members can have a voice on various social, political and welfare issues.”
She said she has also educated members of the association on issues she faces, such as how to negotiate percentage increases and other internal issues her members have raised.
De Freitas said many members of the association are concerned about negative comments from the public and politicians who call the teachers’ actions irresponsible.
“Everything that happens in terms of the education sector is influenced or impacted by government policy. So I would like to remind (the public) that at the start of the pandemic, when we closed our schools in March 2020, it was It was TTUTA who first called for proper arrangements for virtual classrooms, distribution of devices to students and educators, and a properly designed emergency program.”
She said teachers were working full time and even overtime while balancing a family life during this time as well.
“So when educators and now say, listen, we deserve proper compensation because, like other citizens, we have been negatively affected by the rising cost of living, we realized there had to be a way to get our message across and indicate that we cannot function.” Teachers took the first day of the new school term in September to “rest and reflect” and had threatened further action in October, prompting the Department of Labor to obtain an injunction restraining industrial action on the grounds that teachers are members of essential unions. service and cannot strike.
De Freitas said teachers are facing poor physical conditions in some schools that have surfaced recently as well as the recurring problem of student indiscipline.
She said she hopes that in line with the transformation of the education system, educators will be at the heart of this and working conditions will be improved so that education can be provided as a public good.
De Freitas also pointed to a newspaper article that mentioned teachers were pushing for housing and referenced a meeting with the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) last month. De Freitas said at the meeting when they asked for 10% of the housing stock to be allocated to teachers, similar to an arrangement for protective services, they were told no. She said the Department of Education and the Department of Housing and Urban Development did not have a Cabinet-approved deal like the Department of National Security.
“What was suggested to TTUTA, if you wanted to have such a specific arrangement for housing stock allocation for educators, then TTUTA had to come up with a proposal, approach the Ministry of Education, engage the ministry and do that such Cabinet arrangement be made between the Department of Education and the Department of Housing and Town Planning.”
During her speech on Friday, she said some of the issues that have been exacerbated recently are “teacher shortages, lack of professional development opportunities, poor working status and conditions, and lack of ability to develop teacher leadership, autonomy and innovation”.
She offered strategies for some of these issues – the importance of social dialogue, meeting the professional needs of teachers, facilitating self-organization, shaping the discourse for quality education and support for the profession, and building alliances and strategic partnerships.