President of the Vanuatu Teachers Union (VTU), Willie Abiut, said whether or not members of the union return to the classrooms after the next two weeks holiday depends entirely on the Government’s promise to settle their salary anomalies in June.
The VTU president’s remarks on the union’s stance comes as officials in the North East Efate Vanuatu Teachers Union Branch (NEEB) call on their superiors at the union office to step up.
NEEB President, Robin Kaltonga stressed there is overwhelming disagreement throughout Vanuatu in having the teachers wait until the parliament sitting to have the issue of anomalies sorted.
NEEB further voiced its dissatisfaction over the Teaching Service Commission(TSC)’s promises on the issue in the past, and moving the payments to April without success.
Mr Kaltonga emphasized that teachers have been asking him for answers concerning the matter but his response were that decisions are made only by the union.
He said NEEB appreciates the decision by its office to stage an industrial action because overdue failed promises are affecting the teachers.
According to Mr Kaltonga, teachers throughout Vanuatu are demanding an “all out industrial action”, arguing that the union should have done more.
The teachers are also demanding change in attitude and a more proactive approach to make a difference.
“If other government institutions can receive their pay anomalies, why is it taking so long for teachers?” he questioned.
Mr Kaltonga said many of the branches are requesting the latest updates and will not be intimidated by any signed agreements to ‘buy their silence’.
He said anomalies in 2018 alone stands at VT400 million and by June 2019, alongside other failed promises, the government has around VT600 million to settle.
The NEEB aspires to advise the Union for a “stand down” at the workplace, where teachers will be physically present at schools but no real work would be attended while waiting for the government to make the payment a reality.
“Many teachers are suggesting the actions to be taken after the two weeks holiday break,” NEEB stated.
“We are calling on the national executive of the Union to achieve a maximum turnout of any industrial action, it has to start negotiating with the branches and refrain from hard feelings as both should work together and build up working relationship to address such issues.
“This is not the time for lip service, actions must speak louder than words. Action is the essence of union power.”
However, VTU President Abiut said the union does not encourage its members to strike anytime from now until June because it would negatively impact negotiations.
But he said the strike is still on if there is no positive response from the government.
“After many years of negotiations, the government has finally responded that it will settle the teacher’s demands next month,” he said.
“An industrial action would only cause the negotiations to collapse.
“The VTU National Executive Meeting will be held from May 15 to 16 in Port Vila to discuss matters of concern. One of these matters is to decide on the industrial action.
“Members must understand that anomalies are not the only issue in the bargaining agreement. Other issues include delayed retirement packages, transfer allowances and housing conditions.”
President Abiut also advised members to follow proper communication channels to raise concerns about anomalies and working conditions.
“Raising a concern without following the proper communication channel is unconstitutional to VTU,” he said.
“VTU will only deal with issues that are raised following its grievance procedure.
“Concerns or grievances of members should be forwarded to their affiliated VTU branches. The head of the VTU branches will submit these concerns to the union to deal with them.”
Mr Abiut affirmed the VT400 million proposal to sort out teachers’ anomalies and VT600 million for the retirement packages has been taken to the Development Committee of Officials (DCO) and Council of Ministers (COM).
He said parliament needs to approve the funds to settle the anomalies and delayed retirement payments.