TT Unified Teachers' Association (TTUTA) president Antonia De Freitas said the upgrade of teachers in Tobago is the major issue confronting the island's education sector.
De Freitas and other union officials met with representatives from the Division of Education, Innovation and Energy, on Tuesday, to thrash out some of the issues affecting teachers. The union last met with education officials in November 2019, shortly after the new TTUTA executive assumed office.
De Freitas said the upgrade of teachers is a priority for the union.
"Upgrades of teachers: persons who did the bridging programme out of UTT (University of TT), persons who would have graduated prior to that, USC (University of the Southern Caribbean) graduates, arrears of increment. We are dealing with upgrades of teachers right now and payment of contract gratuity."
She said education officials could not say how many teachers are affected by these situations.
On some of the positives coming out of the meeting, De Freitas said they were able to identify some of the schools which needed repairs to copiers, furniture and other items.
"In terms of plant issues, that is taking a little longer but we are working on it."
De Freitas said while some progress was made in some areas, there was still room for improvement.
"We saw movement in some areas and then again in some areas we had to say honestly to the division that we would want improvement, and the administrator has committed to providing better results and working with TTUTA. So, at the next meeting in February, we are looking for some tangible responses to situations that we would have asked about."
Asked about the recent High Court judgment in which the Tobago House of Assembly has been ordered to immediately pay contract teachers all outstanding payments, plus interest, De Freitas said: "At this point in time, TTUTA is still looking at the judgment and the implications it will have for the persons who work on contract, so as soon as we are finished with that and we have some further discussion with the division, we will perhaps make statement on it."
In the decision delivered in the High Court on January 9, the teachers claimed the THA had treated them unequally as compared to the permanent teachers in Tobago as well as to contract teachers in Trinidad. They were paid less and not entitled to the same amount of leave and benefits.
Justice David Harris, in his judgment, ruled the THA breached the constitutional rights of the contract teachers to equality of treatment by failing to pay them their outstanding gratuities. The teachers were represented by Martin George & Company.
Apart from De Freitas, TTUTA was represented by second vice-president Kyrla Robertson-Thomas; outgoing Tobago officer Orlando Kerr; district secretary Shenelle Guy; industrial relations officer, north, Bryan Valentine and others.