SPEECH BY HON. PRIME MINISTER ON THE MATTER OF THE DAT'S INDUSTRIAL ACTION


FELLOW DOMINICANS,

ONCE AGAIN IT HAS BECOME NECESSARY FOR ME TO ADDRESS YOU ON THE MATTER OF THE CURRENT IMPASSE BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF DOMINICA AND THE DOMINICA ASSOCIATION OF TEACHERS (DAT).

AS YOU KNOW A NUMBER OF TEACHERS HAVE WITHDRAWN THEIR SERVICES WITH EFFECT FROM MONDAY 7TH OCTOBER, 1996 AND AS A RESULT SOME SCHOOLS HAVE REMAINED CLOSED SINCE THEN WHILE SOME OTHERS HAVE HAD THEIR OPERATIONS DISRUPTED. THERE ARE ALSO OTHER SCHOOLS WHICH HAVE BEEN FUNCTIONING NORMALLY.

WHEN I ADDRESSED YOU ON THIS MATTER ABOUT A MONTH AGO, I INFORMED YOU OF THE SEVERAL STEPS WHICH THIS GOVERNMENT HAS TAKEN SINCE COMING INTO OFFICE TO IMPROVE THE EDUCATION SYSTEM AND THE CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT OF OUR TEACHERS. I POINTED TO THE FACT THAT WE HAD CLEARED AND SETTLED A NUMBER OF MATTERS WHICH THE DAT HAD BEEN SEEKING TO HAVE SETTLED FOR A LONG TIME.

NEGOTIATIONS BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF DOMINICA AND THE DAT STARTED IN MARCH 1996. SEVERAL MEETINGS WERE HELD BETWEEN THE NEGOTIATING TEAMS OF GOVERNMENT AND OF THE DAT. TWO MEETINGS WERE HELD BETWEEN THE CABINET AND THE DAT'S NEGOTIATING TEAM.

AS FAR AS WE ARE AWARE THE BASIS FOR THE INDUSTRIAL ACTION BY THE TEACHERS IS THAT GOVERNMENT MADE THEM AN OFFER TO PAY A 2% SALARY INCREASE FOR THE PERIOD 1994/95 WITH BACK PAY AND THAT GOVERNMENT SUBSEQUENTLY RENEGED, WENT BACK ON THAT OFFER.

FELLOW DOMINICANS, THIS IS NOT TRUE. GOVERNMENT'S OFFER FOR 1994/95 HAS ALWAYS BEEN WITHOUT BACK PAY. TO ESTABLISH ITS CASE THAT GOVERNMENT MADE AN OFFER OF BACK PAY FOR 1994/95, THE MEMBERS OF THE DAT NEGOTIATING TEAM ARE RELYING ON A LETTER DATED 11TH JULY, 1996, WRITTEN BY THE CHIEF PERSONNEL OFFICER (CPO) WHICH STATES IN PART, "I AM TO INFORM YOU THAT GOVERNMENT IS PLEASED THAT THE DOMINICA ASSOCIATION OF TEACHERS HAS ACCEPTED GOVERNMENT'S OFFER OF PAY INCREASES OF 2% IN 1994/95, 1% IN 1995/96, AND 3% IN 1996/97 ON CONDITION THAT PAY FOR 1994/95 BE PAID."

ANY ATTEMPT TO CONCLUDE THAT THE REFERENCE TO BACK PAY IN THIS LETTER REPRESENTS AN OFFER MADE BY GOVERNMENT TO PAY BACK PAY FOR 1994/95 IS WRONG. IN FACT, THAT REFERENCE TO BACK PAY IS AN ACKNOWLEDGMENT THAT THE ACCEPTANCE BY DAT'S NEGOTIATING TEAM WAS ON CONDITION THAT BACK PAY WAS PAID. IT IS INTERESTING TO NOTE THAT AS SOON AS IT CAME TO THE ATTENTION OF THE CPO THAT HIS LETTER WAS BEING MISINTERPRETED HE FIRST SPOKE TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE DAT CLARIFYING THE MATTER. THE CPO ALSO WROTE TO THE DAT BY LETTER DATE 16TH JULY TO REMOVE ANY DOUBT ABOUT GOVERNMENT'S OFFER. THAT LETTER STATES IN PART, "I WISH TO POINT OUT THAT GOVERNMENT'S OFFER TO THE DOMINICA ASSOCIATION OF TEACHERS FOR 1994/95 WAS, AND STILL REMAINS, FOR REASONS ALREADY STATED, 2% WITHOUT BACK PAY. IT WAS NEVER 2% WITH BACK PAY, AS ANNOUNCED BY YOUR ASSOCIATION OVER THE RADIO YESTERDAY AND AS IMPLIED IN YOUR LETTER UNDER REFERENCE."

THE QUESTION ARISES AS TO WHY THE DAT EXECUTIVE IS NOT GIVING THE SAME LEVEL OF PUBLICITY TO THIS LETTER AS THEY ARE GIVING TO THE ONE OF 11TH JULY, 1996. A REASONABLE CONCLUSION MUST BE THAT THE DAT'S EXECUTIVE KNOWS THAT PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE OF THE CONTENTS OF THIS LETTER WOULD UNDERMINE THEIR CLAIM THAT AN OFFER OF BACK PAY WAS MADE BY GOVERNMENT.

ANOTHER QUESTION WHICH NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED BY THE DAT'S EXECUTIVE IS WHERE AND WHEN WAS THE OFFER OF BACK PAY FOR 1994/95 MADE TO THEM. CERTAINLY IT COULD NOT BE IN THE LETTER OF 11TH JULY.

I ASK THE TEACHERS TO ASK THE DAT'S EXECUTIVE WHERE AND WHEN WAS THE OFFER OF BACK FOR 1994/95 MADE.

WHEN THE DAT'S NEGOTIATING TEAM MET WITH CABINET ON 10TH SEPTEMBER, 1996, WE SOUGHT TO GET A COMMON UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT TRANSPIRED AT OUR EARLIER MEETING OF 9TH JULY WHEN IT WAS ALLEGED THAT AN OFFER OF BACK PAY WAS MADE. THE DAT'S NEGOTIATING TEAM SAID TO US THAT WHEN THEY READ THE LETTER OF 9TH JULY FROM THE CPO THEY THOUGHT WE HAD CHANGED OUR MIND FROM OUR EARLIER POSITION OF NO BACK PAY FOR 1994/95, CLEARLY ACKNOWLEDGING THAT OUR OFFER AT THE MEETING OF 9TH JULY WAS WITHOUT BACK PAY.

IT IS FROM THIS STAND POINT THAT AT THAT MEETING OF 10TH SEPTEMBER, 1996, THE DAT THEN PROPOSED A NEW PACKAGE OF ITEMS FOR CONSIDERATION BY GOVERNMENT IN LIEU OF BACK PAY FOR 1994/95.

I WISH TO REPEAT THIS. AT THE MEETING OF 10TH SEPTEMBER, 1996, BETWEEN THE CABINET AND THE DAT'S NEGOTIATING TEAM THAT DAT'S NEGOTIATING TEAM PROPOSED TO GOVERNMENT A PACKAGE OF NON-MONETARY ITEMS TO COMPENSATE FOR THE 1994/95 BACK PAY THAT THE TEACHERS SHOULD THEN TAKE STRIKE ACTION CLAIMING THAT THEY WERE OFFERED BACK PAY SOMETIME IN JULY CANNOT BE APPROPRIATE.

THESE ITEMS INCLUDED -


1.	GRATUITY FOR TEACHERS IN GOVERNMENT ASSISTED SCHOOLS;

2.	UNIFORM ALLOWANCES FOR TEACHERS;

3.	CREATION OF GRADUATE TEACHER POSITIONS FOR PRIMARY SCHOOLS;

4.	TELEPHONES FOR PRIMARY SCHOOLS;

5.	APPOINTMENT OF GRADUATES OF THE NEW MEXICO TRAINING PROGRAMME 
	AS QUALIFIED TEACHERS.
A SPECIAL COMMITTEE WAS PUT TOGETHER TO REVIEW THESE ITEMS AND A FURTHER TWELVE PROPOSALS BEFORE FULL CONSIDERATION BY GOVERNMENT OF THE PROPOSALS.

A NUMBER OF THESE PROPOSALS WERE ACCEPTED BY GOVERNMENT TO THE SATISFACTION OF THE DAT'S NEGOTIATING TEAM.

FURTHER, BY LETTER DATED 2ND SEPTEMBER, 1996, THE DAT WROTE GIVING GOVERNMENT UNTIL 30TH OCTOBER, 1996, TO MAKE ALL PAYMENTS INCLUDING BACK PAY BY 30TH OCTOBER, 1996. SO THE DAT HAS GIVEN GOVERNMENT UNTIL THE 30TH OF OCTOBER TO SETTLE ALL OUTSTANDING MATTERS YET ON 7TH OCTOBER, TWENTY-THREE DAYS BEFORE THE DEADLINE THE DAT TAKES STRIKE ACTION. WHY THEREFORE ARE THE TEACHERS ON STRIKE AT THIS TIME.

FELLOW DOMINICANS, AS YOU KNOW LAST MONTH WE CONCLUDED NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE CIVIL SERVICE ASSOCIATION WHICH IS THE REPRESENTATIVE BODY FOR PUBLIC OFFICERS IN WHICH OUR OFFER OF 2% FOR 1994/95, 1% FOR 1995/96 AND 3% FOR 1996/97 WITHOUT RETROACTIVE PAY FOR 1994/95 WAS ACCEPTED. A SIMILAR OFFER HAS BEEN MADE TO THE POLICE THROUGH THEIR REPRESENTATIVE BODY, THE POLICE WELFARE ASSOCIATION AND WE ARE IN THE PROCESS OF CONCLUDING AN AGREEMENT.

WHY THEN ARE THE TEACHERS THE ONLY GROUP WHICH FINDS THE OFFER UNACCEPTABLE AND HAS REVERTED TO STRIKE ACTION. IT WAS STRANGE TO LEARN THAT THE TEACHERS WERE ON STRIKE NOT FOR BACK PAY BUT FOR RESPECT.

THE ACTIONS OF THIS GOVERNMENT SINCE TAKING OFFICE HAVE SHOWN NOTHING BUT OUR DEEP RESPECT FOR THE TEACHING PROFESSION. IN OUR RECOGNITION OF OUR HEROES WE HAVE NAMED THREE SCHOOLS AFTER FORMER TEACHERS. CABINET HAS TAKEN DECISIONS TO CONFER HONOURS ON SOME OF OUR TEACHERS DURING THIS YEAR'S NATIONAL CELEBRATIONS. THE HONOURABLE MINISTER FOR EDUCATION PARTICIPATED FULLY AS REQUESTED IN THE LOCAL ACTIVITIES OF INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS' DAY. EVEN WHEN DURING OUR MEETING ON 10TH SEPTEMBER TWO OF THE TEACHERS FORMING PART OF THE NEGOTIATING TEAM GOT INVOLVED IN CLANDESTINE AND UNACCEPTABLE ACTIVITY OUR RESPECT FOR THE PROFESSION INFLUENCED US TO ACCEDE TO THE REQUEST OF THE REST OF THEIR COLLEAGUES TO ACCEPT APOLOGIES FROM THE TWO OFFENDERS AND CONTINUE THE MEETING RATHER THAN DISCONTINUE THE DISCUSSION WHICH WE WERE WITHIN OUR RIGHT TO DO.

OUR RESPECT FOR THE TEACHING PROFESSION HAS BEEN DEMONSTRATED BY THE WIDESPREAD CONSULTATIONS WHICH THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION HAS HELD WITH TEACHERS IN DEVELOPING ITS PLANS AND PROGRAMMES.

I REPEAT, THIS GOVERNMENT FULLY RESPECTS THE TEACHING PROFESSION.

THE DAT'S CLAIM THAT GOVERNMENT'S ACTION IN INCREASING TEACHERS' SALARIES BY 6.11% AS AT 30TH SEPTEMBER IS A GROSS DISRESPECT TO THEM SINCE NO CONTRACT HAS BEEN SIGNED, IS UNFOUNDED SINCE BY LETTER DATED 15TH JULY, 1996, AND REPEATED BY LETTER DATED 2ND SEPTEMBER, 1996, THE DAT INDICATED THEIR ACCEPTANCE OF THE PERCENTAGE INCREASES.

THIS GOVERNMENT RECOGNISES THE RIGHT OF ANY TEACHER TO WITHDRAW HIS OR HER LABOUR AT ANY TIME. HOWEVER, THIS SHOULD ONLY BE DONE IF THERE IS A JUSTIFIABLE REASON TO DO SO. I AM SURE YOU WILL AGREE, FELLOW DOMINICANS, THAT BASED ON THE FOREGOING THE TEACHERS HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO JUSTIFIABLE REASON TO BE ON STRIKE AT THIS TIME.

BY LETTER DATED 7TH OCTOBER, 1996, THE DAT REJECTED GOVERNMENT'S PROPOSALS TO TAKE THE MATTER TO ARBITRATION AS PROVIDED FOR IN THE PUBLIC SERVICE ACT OF 1995, SINCE ACCORDING TO THEM THEY HAVE NOTHING TO TAKE TO ARBITRATION.

THE TEACHERS CANNOT BE OUT ON STRIKE BECAUSE OF AN OFFER OF BACK PAY MADE TO THEM FOR THE PERIOD 1994/95 BECAUSE NO SUCH OFFER WAS MADE TO THEM.

TO BE OUT ON STRIKE BECAUSE OF A PERCEIVED LACK OF RESPECT MUST BE UNACCEPTABLE TO ALL REASONABLE THINKING PERSONS.

TO GIVE THE GOVERNMENT A DEADLINE OF 30TH OCTOBER, 1996, AND THEN TO TAKE STRIKE ACTION ON 7TH OCTOBER, 1996, (TWENTY-THREE DAYS BEFORE THAT DEADLINE EXPIRES) MUST BE UNACCEPTABLE TO ALL REASONABLE THINKING PEOPLE.

IT HAS BEEN NOTED THAT WHILE SOME TEACHERS ARE ON STRIKE AND NEGATIVELY AFFECTING THE EDUCATION OF THE CHILDREN THEY CONTINUE TO SEND THEIR OWN CHILDREN TO SCHOOL TO BE TAUGHT BY THOSE TEACHERS WHO HAVE REMAINED AT WORK. THIS CANNOT BE JUST AND REASONABLE AND RIGHT.

THIS GOVERNMENT HAS A RESPONSIBILITY TO ENSURE THAT ALL THE CHILDREN OF OUR COUNTRY RECEIVE AN EDUCATION AND THAT TEACHERS ARE AVAILABLE TO PROVIDE THAT EDUCATION.

I WISH TO ASSURE PARENTS AND CHILDREN THAT ARRANGEMENTS ARE BEING MADE TO ENSURE THAT ALL THE GOVERNMENT RUN SCHOOLS IN THE COUNTRY ARE MANNED.

THE CHILDREN SHOULD THEREFORE GO TO SCHOOL. WE NOTE THAT SOME OF THE ASSISTED SCHOOLS PARTICULARLY IN THE ROSEAU ARE HAVE BEEN CLOSED. GOVERNMENT DOES NOT HAVE DIRECT RESPONSIBILITY FOR THESE SCHOOLS BUT PAYS A SUBVENTION TOWARDS THE SALARY OF THE TEACHERS. WE LOOK FORWARD TO THE OWNERS OF THESE SCHOOLS TAKING APPROPRIATE ACTION TO ENSURE THE CONTINUED EDUCATION OF THE CHILDREN.

IN LIGHT OF THE FOREGOING WE REMAIN PUZZLED AS TO THE REAL REASON THAT THE DAT'S EXECUTIVE SHOULD HAVE TEACHERS OUR ON STRIKE AT THIS TIME.

WE CONTINUE TO RESIST SUGGESTIONS THAT IT IS POLITICALLY MOTIVATED SINCE THE ONLY MENTION OF POLITICS IN THIS WHOLE MATTER IS CONTAINED IN A LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT OF THE DAT DATED 17TH JULY, 1996, WHERE REFERENCE IS MADE TO POLITICAL CONFUSION. BUT THERE IS NO CONFUSION OF ANY SORT.

THIS GOVERNMENT IS VERY CLEAR ON ITS POLICIES AND PROGRAMMES FOR REFORMING THE EDUCATION SYSTEM AND IMPROVING THE CONDITIONS OF WORK AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR BOTH THE TEACHERS AND STUDENTS. OUR ACTION WITH RESPECT TO THE PROVISION OF TEXT BOOKS; SECONDARY SCHOOL PLACES; SCHOLARSHIPS, ETC. TESTIFIES TO THIS.

WE THEREFORE URGE THE TEACHERS TO THINK CAREFULLY ABOUT THEIR OWN ROLE IN THIS FORWARD THRUST IN EDUCATION AND NOT LET THE FRUSTRATION TO WHICH THEY HAVE BEEN SUBJECTED IN THE PAST INFLUENCE THEIR PRESENT AND FUTURE ACTIONS.

WE LOOK FORWARD TO WORKING WITH ALL DOMINICANS, INCLUDING THE TEACHERS, PARENTS AND STUDENTS TO BUILD OUR COUNTRY.

THIS STRIKE CANNOT HELP IN THIS BUILDING PROCESS.
I THANK YOU!



CaKaFete 1996
Created: Saturday, October 12, 1996, 9:05:56 AM Last Updated: Saturday, October 12, 1996, 9:05:56 AM