The first meeting of the Lycée Louis Antoine de Bougainville Teachers' Association with more than 150 teachers from primary and secondary schools in the Capital Port-Vila on Wednesday June 27th June 2012 has given the indication that a lot of teachers in the 6 provinces of the country have outstanding salary issues accumulated since 2006 that could be estimated up to hundreds of millions.
A ring leader within the 'Association des Professeurs du Lycée LAB', Bergmans Iati told the Vanuatu Times that the meeting between the teachers from Anglophone and Francophone primary and secondary schools resulted in a calendar of action plan to be carried out.
The meeting that was held at the French Secondary school (Lycée LAB) was prompted by the lawsuit which resulted in a default judgment in favor of 49 Lycée teachers against the government of Vanuatu.
The Court has ordered the government to pay up to a bit more than VT 49 million for outstanding salary issues.
"Just imagine, the government has to pay almost VT 50 million of outstanding salary issues to Lycée LAB alone. Once the assessment and inventory of all the single cases of salary irregularities of all the teachers in all the schools throughout the country, it will surely be a huge amount of money that the government will have to settle with the teachers", Bergmans Iati told the Times.
"The response to the meeting was very positive. We had more almost 200 teachers from Anglophone and Francophone primary and secondary schools gathered in one place to talk about our common salary related issues. We briefed our fellow colleagues about the encouraging outcome of the lawsuit that the members of our Association won against the Government" Iati said.
The meeting has resolved to set up a task force to coordinate their combined efforts to tackle various salary issues of the teachers.
Two teachers from each school were designated and mandated to do an inventory the number of years of each teacher in the teaching service within their own school.
They are also responsible to find out the salary scale of the teachers to make sure that the teachers are paid on the right salary scale.
The meeting also emphasized the importance for the Teaching Service Commission to consider the qualifications and seniority of a teacher in the salary making.
The newly establish Teachers' Task Force Committee will meet on the 11th of July 2012:
Bergmans Iati went on explaining that since 2006 at the Lycée LAB, a lot of year 11 to year 14 teachers were monthly remunerated on the basis of the E3.5 salary scale destined for Junior Secondary Teachers instead of the E4.0 salary scale which is the adequate scale for Secondary Teachers.
"Some of the Teachers who are teaching both secondary classes and junior secondary classes are also entitled to be paid on the E4.0 scale. Three of our year 14 teachers graduated with Masters Degree in New Caledonia did not receive any salary in 2011".
"In 2012, we have 2 other Secondary Teachers who are working without perceiving any salaries since the beginning of this year. That's unconceivable", Iati said.
Iati explained that the Association made various attempts to approach the ministry and the Teaching Service Commission to raise those issues and claims related to those salary related issues but they did not receive any positive response.
They then took the decision to bring their claims before the Supreme Court.
After hearing the Civil case No. 46 of 2012 between Assial Rolland & Others (total 46 teachers) as the first claimants, Pio Letine & Others (three teachers who didn't receive any salary in 2011) as the second Claimants and the Teaching Service Commission as the First Defendant and the Government of Vanuatu as the second defendant; the Supreme Court has issued a binding judgment in favor of the plaintiffs.
In his verdict dated June 20th 2012, the Supreme Court Judge, Dudley Aru said that "upon considering the Claimants request for Default Judgment on a fixed Amount and upon reading the sworn statement of service filed therein, I am satisfied that the Defendants have not filed a Response within the 14 days nor a Defense with 28 days after being served with the claim in the proceeding".
The default judgment in favor of the Plaintiffs against the Respondents ordered the payment of over 49 million vatu (VT 49,220,966).
The amount of VT 44,661,526 vatu will be paid to the 1st Claimants, VT 4,339,440 to the 2nd claimants plus VT 220 000 consisting of the filing fee, service fees and cost.
The Vanuatu Times was unable to obtain a comment from the Ministry on the issue.
The President of the Vanuatu Teachers Union, Alfred Leo told the Times that they couldnít intervene directly on the issue given the fact that most of the members of the Association of Teachers from Lycée LAB are not financial members of the VTU.
"Until such time that we have not received reports and claims from our financial members we can't do much. However the Vanuatu Teachers Union intervened by indirectly sending correspondences to the Ministry and the Teaching Serve Communication", Mr. Leo told the Times.
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