Teachers in New Amsterdam area take action over salary deductions By Daniel Da Costa
Stabroek News
November 30, 2003

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A number of teachers from at least three primary schools in and around New Amsterdam have taken industrial action over what they describe as arbitrary deductions from their salaries over the past two months.

In New Amsterdam some eleven teachers attached to the St Aloysius Primary School on Tuesday began a "sit in" protesting the deductions which they say range from $6,000 to $20,000 each for October and November.

Teachers from Edinburgh Primary and Fort Ordnance have also had similar deductions over the past two months. One teacher at Edinburgh Primary said some $4,000 had been deducted from her salary this month.

At Fort Ordnance, a few miles from New Amsterdam, affected teachers protested outside the school on Friday demanding an explanation for the deductions and a refund. According to the disgruntled teachers of St Aloysius they were told by their headmistress that the deductions were made because they had surpassed their leave allotment.

However, when contacted the headmistress said she was not in a position to say why the deductions were made. Yet the teachers maintain that the computation is usually done by head teachers and the documents are then sent to the Department of Education for perusal before moving on to the regional administration which effects payment.

Regional Education Officer, Nasrulla Khan, said the matter had just been brought to his attention and he was looking at it. A source from the regional administration told this newspaper that the accounting department had nothing to do with the deductions.

The disgruntled teachers agree that neither the regional administration nor the department could be blamed for the deductions. The matter, according to the teachers, was first brought to the attention of officials of the department in New Amsterdam at the end of October when they realised that deductions were made from their salaries. "When we discovered the deductions we went to the department and told them about it but we were told to go back to our headmistress to have the matter resolved. When we approached our headmistress she told us that we had over-stepped our leave and this was the reason for the deductions," said one senior teacher.

According to the teachers when the school's records were checked it was discovered that only one or two teachers had over-stepped their leave by one half day or a day for the month. "This could not warrant deductions of $4,000, $6,000, or $10,000," she argued. "We kept going to and from the department of education and the school in an attempt to resolve the matter but to no avail. We were hoping that despite the inaction by both parties that there would not have been a re-occurrence this month but our worst fears were realised."

The teachers told this newspaper they are of the view that they are being victimized on account of the last strike by the country's teachers earlier this year. "We did not participate in that strike because it was around exams time and we decided to stay on the job in the interest of our students so there is no reason to victimize us for that strike. We are of the view that our headmistress and the department of education have let us down tremendously and have failed to look after our welfare and this is why we have decided to take this action."

The majority of the teachers are adamant that they had not over-stepped their leave and there is no reason for the deductions. Most of the affected teachers who tutor students at Prep B and levels 1,2,3,4 and 6 say that while they will report to work they will not be teaching or preparing their students for upcoming end-of- term examinations.

At Fort Ordnance the teachers say they were told by the headmistress that they too had over-stepped their leave and had been reporting late for work. However, they have denied these charges. Approximately ten teachers at Fort Ordnance are also on a "sit-in" refusing to work until the deductions are refunded.