Teachers were supposed to have gotten their paycheck today - and just like the Chief Justice said, it should have been their entire November salary - even for those who went on strike. But, we have confirmed tonight that a number of teachers countrywide - at least the 1,500 teachers who were on strike - have not gotten their full pay.
And, There are indications that this delay may have affected all teachers countrywide. We've been unable to reach the officials at the Ministry of Education to confirm how many paychecks were affected.
So, what's the hold up? Well, it's the confusion caused in trying to comply with the Chief Justice's order on Monday. The Chief Justice ruled that until the case is heard to completion, all pay schedules must continue undisturbed. The problem is that before the injunction was granted, the Ministry had already finalized the deductions. They were ordered to reverse it, and it appears that in trying to reverse what was done, the Ministry couldn't meet the November 25 payday deadline.
We have gotten a copy of a memorandum sent by Dr. Carol Babb, the Chief Education Officer, which she wrote to the general managers, and Managing Authorities of all the schools.
It says, quote, "In light of the court order restraining the…Ministry of Education… from withholding salaries for individual teachers for the days when those teachers were on strike, the Ministry… and Treasury Department are doing their best to process payment of full salaries for the November period, in keeping with the order." End quote.
It continues, quote, "The Ministry… therefore advises Managing Authorities, that classes should proceed as normal tomorrow, November 25… That is, in schools where time-off is normally given for teachers to collect pay, such time-off should be deferred to a date in the week of November 27, 2016, when it will be confirmed that salaries will be ready for teachers in all such schools."
The teachers were expecting to be paid, and we're told that they even signed on their pay sheets earlier in the week, only to find out yesterday that the salary isn't arriving today. This evening, Luke Palacio, President of the BNTU granted a phone interview calling out the Chief Education Officer, in what he perceives as the Ministry intentionally delaying salaries. Here's what he had to say:
Luke Palacio, President - BNTU
"Dr. Carol Babb continues to try and be disobedient and disrespectful even to the courts of this country that have given her instructions, have given the ministry and the instructions that the teachers are to be paid today. In fact we contacted her yesterday from the BNTU executive secretary, she promise that whatever the outcome we would have been informed in writing, a copy of whatever decision would have been sent to us. We attempted to get in touch with Carol Babb after 4:30 and she did not respond to our call. And it was afterwards we started hearing from different teachers and management that such a memo had gone out. We find that to be very disrespectful."
"The instructions were clear. We in fact have refrain from going to the media with these matters because the matter is before the court. But it is hurting our teachers and it is intentional on the part of the chief education officer and whoever is aiding and abetting her in the actions she is taking at this time."
"Those pay sheets with the deductions were submitted to the ministry early in the month as instruction of Carol Babb. However, because she wants to continue to be - a number of the pay sheets were already completed and we see no reason why, if those were already completed why those teachers would not have been paid. In some districts where teachers are given time off to go collect their pay, they had instructed their students as usual that the last Friday of the month there would have been no classes, because there would have been no school transportation as well. It was not until after 4pm yesterday evening when students were already dismissed from some of those institutions that the teachers were being told by their district center managers that they should report to school. So who students would be there today and then you try and penalize the teachers. We believe she is being vindictive and whoever is aiding and abetting her are equally as vindictive."
So, while Palacio interprets the delay as an attempt to frustrate and punish the teachers who were on strike, we note that Dr. Carol Babb did warn that this delay could happen. For context, here's an excerpt of that interview from Monday, when she stressed that reversing the pay cut wasn't as simple as it would seem:
File: November 21, 2016
Dr. Carol Babb, Chief Education Officer
"I don't think it will be ready for the 25th, because we explained that this is a process that takes about 2 weeks. But I am not in a position right now to say when the salaries will be ready. Please understand that. I am not the finance officer. As we explained to you all before it a process that takes time. So I don't know if it will be ready for the 25th. But you can check back with us. But I think it's highly unlikely that it will be available."
"Wouldn't that be in breach of a court order?"
Dr. Carol Babb, Chief Education Officer
"No. they will be paid, but remember it is a process and we've explained that before and so you can't say that we are being unfair. We've said that before. I am not in a position to say it will be ready for the 25th. We have to check with our financial officers."
Dr. Babb and Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber did not respond to our requests for comment. As we have said, it may have affected all teachers, but we are still trying to confirm if that is the case.