Last year, the government agreed to increase teacher's salaries according to their experience. But the Ministry of Education failed to factor the pay increase into their budget for 2013. The National Teachers Association has been in talks with the government and says they've agreed to extend school holidays by a week to give officials time to find the funding.
Presenter: Emma Younger
Speaker: Johnley Hatimoana, General Secretary, National Teachers Association, Solomon Islands
HATIMOANA: This issue of teachers salary readjustment has been reached in some of our discussion over the last three years.
We actually have a scheme - the Teaching Service Scheme - whereby we stipulate the terms and conditions of teachers in that scheme and what happened in the past, that we negotiated with the government and improvement has been approved last year by Cabinet on 9th February. The unfortunate situation and I was so surprised that the government did not factor those into their annual budget last year and then very recently, we realise even the 2013 budget was not factored in. So that scheme of service although we have agreed on, but the government have failed, have failed to budget it for that restructuring exercise. Now the government are saying that it is their fault, so we will have to give them time, so that they could work out the whole nitty gritty of the items that we are agreed on and the costing of it.
YOUNGER: And I understand that the teachers won't be returning to school until that has all be worked out?
HATIMOANA: Well, that is an agreement between my union and the Ministry of Education and Government for that matter, that we demanded that the Ministry of Education has to continue with the budget and make the costing within the next one or two weeks. Now they have agreed with us to use this week as giving them the opportunity to work on the costing part of that whole exercise.
YOUNGER: So I understand that the starting of the school year has been delayed by, at the moment, at least one week.
HATIMOANA: Yes, definitely, yes.
YOUNGER: OK. And can you just explain exactly what the restructuring of the salaries involves?
HATIMAONA: Previously, ECE and the Primary, including Rural Training Centre teachers were paid on Level 4.5. Now we agree to move them to 5.5. One level about their current rate. But the very mystery is that the government did not accommodate that in their budget. So when you really look at the cost involved, it cost the government almost SI$17 million a year and now it is 2013, so they want to factor that into that for the whole of this year, so it may cost the government roughly, about more than SI$30 million.
YOUNGER: So you're talking about raising the minimum wage for teachers?
HATIMAONA: Well actually, that's the whole situation. We raise the minimum wage for teachers from their previous to the new rate that we are talking about here.
YOUNGER: And do you expect this to be resolved by the end of this week? Will we see kids going back to school at the start of next week?
HATMAONA: Well, it depends entirely on the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Finance. We have agreed to that and even if the Ministry of Education do not complete that exercise by the end of next week, they may have to extend another week. As soon as they pay their arrears, then teachers will return to work, and then we will cover these two weeks somehow, during the course of the year.