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Government to consider special arrangements for teachers, nurses etc.

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The government is willing to review ways to offer better pay to some critical

categories of workers, as it recognizes that it is not able to grant large increases to

all workers in the public sector.

That is the word from Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Gaston Browne,

speaking on the Browne and Browne Show on Saturday on the issue where the

Antigua and Barbuda Union of Teachers (A&BUT) is threatening industrial action

unless the government resolves outstanding issues related to their concerns.

While the government has satisfied roughly ninety percent of the demands of the

teachers, one of the two remaining sticking points is the approximately thirty

teachers out of a total of 340 who are yet to be upgraded. Education Minister

Daryll Matthew, who also appeared on the programme, said the ministry has no

record of those teachers and that the union had been asked to provide the names of

these thirty teachers left to be upgraded. Once they had provided the names, both

the prime minister and the education minister have promised that they will be paid,

upon verification of the information.

The other sticking point has to do with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement

(CBA) between the A&BUT and the government. The union is pressing for a date

when negotiations will restart. Minister Matthew said the cabinet has informed the

government negotiation team to recommence these talks and that they are

scheduled to begin today, (April 17).

The teachers are asking for a 20 percent increase for all teachers while the

government has set nine percent as its ceiling. PM Browne noted that if the

government offered teachers a twenty percent increase, then it would have to do

the same for all workers and that it simply was not affordable.

However, the prime minister seemed willing to look at other ways to increase the

salaries of teachers and other special groups without having to offer the same

increases to all public servants across the board.

“We are willing to look at a situation for nurses, teachers and perhaps the police to

look at a reclassification in which we could offer a higher gross percentage than

the nine percent. That in itself would be challenging, but it would be an easier

proposition than to be giving over ten thousand people a twenty percent increase,”

he explained.

Matthew stated repeatedly that the government has no issue with the teachers,

noting that the two sides are not very far apart in terms of what the union has stated

as its reasons to take industrial action. He explained that the fencing at the Sir

Novelle Richards Academy has started, all the secondary schools have been lit and

that security cameras are also being installed.

He further explained that the installation of the cameras takes time to complete

because this work has to be done outside of school hours.

Matthew is also urging the A&BUT to remove its threat of industrial action as the

government has exercised rationality and a willingness to dialogue with the union

on every issue.

He stated that schools will reopen today for the start of the final term in the 2022-

2023 Academic Year, and he is urging parents to send their children to school.

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