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Apr 24, 2017

Education Minister Makes Case for Honorarium, Hits Back at Critics

Even though the money was paid after the start of the financial year, the minister claims it was taken from the previous financial year’s Budget.  But it is known from accounting practices in the Government system that that is not typically how it works. The minister claimed to be disappointed that the press and the litany of groups criticizing his decision apparently failed to follow through to ask for details, which he could have volunteered at the April third interview, when he first announced that a million dollars would be paid in honorarium to non-striking teachers. Be that as it may, he maintained that the money was to address a specific situation – compensating, not even fully, those teachers who showed up to work during the B.N.T.U. strike and at the time of the aborted attempt to make up days lost to that strike in January. It was not, he said, intended to otherwise interfere in any way with the B.N.T.U. or the teaching profession itself.

 

Patrick Faber

Patrick Faber, Minister of Education

“At no point did any of those entities – not the Chamber, not the N.T.U.C.B., not the N.G.O. community – at no point did anybody call the Ministry of Education, called my cell phone.  But I was disappointed in these entities because nobody bothered to find out what the facts were. In fact on this entire issue I gave one single interview that was on the day of the opening of the basketball court in the Faber’s Road area along with the Police. Nobody including the media have never written to us to say, ‘Can you give us the details of how things are going to be done here, and what is I that is specifically being done?’ You would think that those things would be done before you put out a press release as an entire entity to say ‘we condemn.’ And that is my issue with them, so I am very disappointed at that. We were looking at two periods: the period in the strike, and the period in January. Why is that important? It is important because when those submissions would be made then, that would determine exactly how much of the million dollars we would spend, so that all those who have gone off half-cocked saying it’s a million dollars, are really – they misread or they took it too far. In fact the figures are looking are more like six hundred thousand dollars. And I understand all those who say, listen, that is a lot of money. But this is the point that I want people to understand: there were eleven days of strike; during those strike days, those teachers who would have qualified for at least a part of the honorarium – and I call it an honorarium for a reason – those teachers went to work. Now there are many arguments, these people worked, they did not work – let’s put that aside for a minute. As a result of the strike, we along with the managing authorities which is what the law prescribes, decided to amend the schools’ calendar to include six additional days – you remember this? Four of those days were to be in January, from January third to the sixth. And you remember that those days were sabotaged. So let’s break it down to brass tacks, as my colleague Minister [Michael] Finnegan would say. Forget the strike days. We have teachers turning up for four days of work in January that was sabotaged by the B.N.T.U. – they told their members, don’t turn up. So we have teachers who turned up for those four days of work – are those teachers not to be compensated in any way? Is it so unfair to offer something to those teachers who turned up for those four days in their Christmas break, so to speak? And then, those teachers are then required to take three days out of their Easter break, and then three days out of their summer break. If you add up all of these days, these are ten additional days that those teachers are asked to show up to work, outside of the planned days – don’t those teachers deserve anything? Is it a waste to give those teachers an honorarium? Because if you pay them their daily rate for those ten days, which we did not attempt to do, it would be far exceeding a million dollars.”

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