Less than 24 hours after the Finance Minister presented the 2023 Budget and announced that the Government could offer no more than four percent as a wage increase to public servants, Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association President Antonia Tekah-De Freitas staged a one-woman protest outside of the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain.
De Freitas said she came out to represent her member’s dismay over the Government’s offer, which she said represents only $296 before tax:
“How do we expect our educators to survive on that when they have to travel from Sangre Grande to Palo Seco to teach? When they have to feed their families and prop up the system?”
She said the Union has recognised that there is not a willingness by the State to negotiate in good faith.
“I am here to represent my members, to put their plights in the public domain and hopefully for persons to understand what we are going through at this point in time, living on 2014 salaries in 2022.”
On Sunday, Attorney General Reginald Armour at a media conference revealed that an injunction was sought following the union’s continued call for teachers to “rest and reflect”.
Following that, De Freitas advised teachers to report to work Monday, as the injunction sought to prevent them from carrying out “illegal” industrial action as AG Armour made it clear that as an essential service, teachers could not engage in any protest or strike.
Asked about the Union’s next move in light of this, De Freitas said the members would have to meet and decide on their next course of action.
“I cannot pronounce on that, I am here simply to highlight our plight this morning…this is not the end, this is just the beginning. We cannot allow our legal rights to be taken away from us and infringed upon and so as President, I am standing here for however long it takes and for how many other times I have to do it to get the State to understand that our teachers deserve better.”
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