Teachers were told at a meeting Wednesday in advance of the new term that a review of their pay and conditions has been authorized.
Education Minister Tara Rivers said her calls for a review had been taken on board by the head of the civil service – Deputy Governor Franz Manderson – who has agreed to “take it forward.”
Speaking to all teachers in the public school system at a conference to mark the start of the new school year, Ms. Rivers told them they played a “special role” in the community and deserved to be properly compensated.
She said teachers need to be viewed as a “special category” within the civil service.
Education officials have previously expressed concern that the civil-service wide wage freeze, implemented in 2010 as a cost-cutting measure, had disproportionately impacted the teaching profession, where incremental pay increases based on performance, experience and additional training are the international norm.
Legislators have also spoken out about disparity in pay – with teachers’ salaries varying depending on the date they were hired – and highlighted concerns that additional qualifications were not being recognized with pay increases.
These issues are understood to have impacted hiring and retention of good teachers, both from Cayman and overseas. In transcripts of exit interviews with departing teachers, several highlighted a “pay cut” at the start of their contract as a factor – a reference to a promised 3.8 percent cost of living increase which did not materialize because of the civil service pay freeze.
Expat teachers have also raised concerns about the removal of perks like free flights home, included in previous contracts – another consequence of civil service-wide cuts. Another concern is that there is apparently no mechanism to progress newly qualified teachers up the pay scale as they acquire more experience.
Ms. Rivers told teachers on Wednesday that the profession deserves to be treated differently .
“We recognize that you are not in this for money, you aren’t here because you want to get rich, but we have to recognize that your role as teachers is so vital to everything we do as a country, there needs to be some review of teachers as a special category.
“Some other ministers may give me flak for talking about teachers being special… but I am here to advocate for you.”
As minister she has no direct control over teachers’ pay, which falls under the remit of Mr. Manderson as head of civil service.
She added, “We have called for a review of the pay and conditions of teachers, and the Deputy Governor has agreed to carry this review forward.
“That is what I have been doing, and I’m looking forward to seeing the results of that review.”
The majority of teachers in the Cayman Islands are paid between $42,564 and $57,252 depending on experience, qualification and position within the system, according to a 2011 report on government salaries.
Speaking to the Cayman Compass after Wednesday’s conference, Ms. Rivers said it was premature to discuss what options would be on the table. She said the broad aim is to reward, incentivize and retain the best teachers in the system.