FORMER contract teacher Farley Augustine is calling on Secretary for Education, Innovation and Energy, Kelvin Charles to “end victimisation season” and pay all gratuities owed immediately.
This comes after Friday’s ruling by Justice David Harris in the High Court ordering the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) to immediately pay contract teachers all outstanding payments, plus interest.
Augustine, one of the litigants and currently serving as a Minority Assemblyman, said he felt really excited that justice will finally be served.
“I feel like the next step will be for the THA is to pay me for the period of my contract ending 2018.
“Hopefully, the Secretary for Education will allow good sense to prevail and will end victimisation season, as he is claiming to do in his campaign for leadership of the PNM. I am not asking for handouts, I am not asking for a special favour, I am not asking to be given a new contract, all I am asking for is to be paid all my gratuities and salaries owing to me,” Augustine told Newsday in an interview on Monday.
Augustine, a member of the Progressive Democratic Patriots, said the THA has a responsibility in terms of how it treats with its public servants and in this case, managing the establishment of the teaching service.
“This was a test case, not just for teachers but for those working at TRHA (Tobago Regional Health Authority), those who worked with the Division of Health, senior citizens who have retired for years and can’t get their gratuities.
“It’s unfair because contractually the THA supposed to pay these gratuities at the end of every contracted period, and that is budgeted for. It means then that the THA has been unfair to its workers and we are happy that the contracted teachers would have some semblance of justice… it was delayed but it was justice nevertheless.”
Claiming his teaching career was victimised, Augustine said he began teaching in September 2009 at the Speyside High School but was "constructively dismissed without justification" in 2017.
He said he was able to balance his teaching duties with his constituency work as Parlatuvier/L’Anse Fourmi/Speyside area representative, when elected in January 2017.
"I did not receive any salary for that academic year while teaching faithfully and receiving excellent passes. I diligently taught after winning (my seat)…I got 100 per cent pass rates in my subjects and I did it although I was never paid.
“I did not resign nor was I formally fired; I did not receive written notice that I was fired. It was only when I returned to school in September 2017, the Principal indicated that he was given instructions from the Division of Education not to allow me to sign into the daily attendance register,” he said adding that another teacher was sent in his place.
“I went to school those two days in August, I signed my resumption of duty form, of which I have a copy, and I was set to resume duty.
“A teacher was sent as my replacement without any formal notice to me… It amounts to being fired, to being dismissed but I was not formally fired by way of letter, nor did I formally resign.”
"This happened because I was a contract employee, it shows the fickleness that comes along with being contracted. There is no stability, you can be dismissed at will.”
Another contract teacher, Zorisha Hackett said she began her teaching career in January of 2003 at the Goodwood High School before proceeding on study leave in August of 2006, returning thereafter at the Scarborough Secondary School.
“As a matter of fact, when I signed those contracts in 2014, after starting in 2010, that was my last set of contracts. I didn’t see other contracts until I took some maternity leave in 2016 and there were issues as I did not have current contracts, so I wasn’t paid during that period because there were no contracts,” she said adding that she too never received gratuity.