Teachers want the government to fulfil a promise to put salaries up according to experience, even though the Ministry of Education failed to factor the pay rises into its 2013 budget.
The Ministry submitted a Cabinet paper on the issue to the government, which met late yesterday to consider it.
Steve Rice asked the Minister for Education, Dick Ha'amori, about the current situation.
Efforts to resolve a teacher's pay dispute continue in Solomon Islands.
Presenter: Steve Rice
Speaker: Dick Ha'amori, the Solomon Islands Minister for Education
HA'AMORI: I think we had made a decision yesteday, the government that is, that should resolve the matter. We had made a decision to make a payment to the teachers as they have demanded.
RICE: And how much did you have to put to one side for their salaries?
HA'AMORI: Hmm, the whole package should be in the tune of 38 million, I think, that is meeting the relevelling for this year, as well as the, some back payment that we needed to make in regarding, in regards to the new relevelling of the teacher's salaries.
You see what happened was last year, around February, we brought this Ministry, that is, the Ministry of Education brought to the Cabinet for approval a Teachers Handbook and in that Teachers Handbook, the relevelling of teachers arrangement is in it, and the decision was for us to pay and for the typical financial difficulties perhaps that faces everybody. We kind of left it unattended up until now and so the teachers picked up and they wanted to press us into doing it, but it is not really that we have not decided. It has been decided last year that a payment for that supposed to be made, that we delayed a little bit. And so we own up, and we said OK, well, let's attend to it and so we have decided yesterday, the government to pay.
RICE: The teachers were threatening strike action. What happened with that?
HA'AMORI: My official should have got back to the Solomon Islands National Teachers Association, the union representing teachers to talk to them about their government's decision as of late yesterday evening. So I think that has taken place, although I have not got word from officials yet whether the National Teachers Association has backed away from their threat, because of what we have decided.
RICE: I see. And when would they be getting their payment?
HA'AMORI: Hmm. With some administrative work that needs to be done, they might get their payout in March. It will not be as if it will happen in the next pay day, because there are expenses that need to be attended to so administrative work that needs to be done and around that time, we will pay.
RICE: I think the National Teachers Association had decided to go on indefinite strike after that meeting with your officials?
HA'AMORI: Oh well, it has not come to me that information yet, so I cannot really ascertain whether that has been paid or not. But from my officials, they have not told me whether CINTA or Sampson Faisi's Group have decided to still go on with that threat that they have made.
RICE: But as far as the government's concerned, you have managed to get the money together for the teachers and it's just a matter of time before it appears in their pay packet?
HA'AMORI: Yes, there are normal provisions for things like this in the system and so say, for example, we can take some money from the current teaching budget and we will use it for this particular purpose, until we come to a point where we will realise that OK, we are short now, then we will go back and ask the parliament for some supplementary, that provision is there, so it is not if it would really out of our hands. It can be managed, it can be managed.
RICE: OK. And are the children still out of school?
HA'AMORI: We should have started last Monday. The fact that they may begin class next week instead is not necessarily because of the teachers strike threat. It's a rather different reasons, some are education authorities have requested for this consideration and so it has been granted to them that we can delay the beginning of school for one week. But as far as I am concerned, it has nothing to do with the teachers strike, threat.
RICE: So would the children, will they be informed that they have to go back to school on Monday?
HA'AMORI: Yeah, I think most of the students are aware of that arrangement, that by Monday they will go back to school.