On Tuesday March 27th and Wednesday March 28th Commissioners of Education, school boards of the Dutch Caribbean, representatives of the Saban education personnel and the teachers unions of Bonaire and St. Eustatius have placed their signature under an agreement “Harmonization and improvement salary structure and implementation standard working year education personnel Dutch Caribbean respectively on Saba, Bonaire and St. Eustatius. With this the commitment, made in November 2011 by Minister van Bijsterveldt of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) to improve the salaries of teachers, has become a fact.
Minister van Bijsterveldt of OCW has requested the Commissioners of Education to chair the negotiations with the school boards and unions. In November 2011 she committed 1.3 million dollar for the improvement of the salaries of teachers. Now all concerned parties have agreed this salary structure applies for all teachers in the Dutch Caribbean. And all teachers in the Dutch Caribbean will receive with retroactive effect a salary increase of minimum 5% effective January 1st, 2012. This increase for teachers will be in addition to the salary increase of 3.25% of the labour conditions agreement 2012 for Central government workers, which went into effect on January 1st 2012 and were also applicable for education personnel. The percentage of 5% can in individual cases increase because the salary level in the three Public Entities but also per school, varied considerably traditionally and these differences are now being lifted. The salary increase is for teachers in primary education, secondary education and vocational education.
During her visit in 2011 to Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, the Minister was confronted with concerns about the level of teacher’s salaries and the problems schools faced with recruiting teachers. The Minister committed during this visit to a research and promised to take measures to address the problem. From this study it is proven that salary levels of teachers per island sometimes differed strongly, but also that the starting salary of teachers were lower than of a comparable civil servant within Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland and that it took teachers long before they could reach their maximum salary. With the extra 1.3 million dollar starting salaries will be improved, the difference in salary levels will be removed and teachers can reach their maximum salary sooner.
Representatives of the three Public Entities welcomed the harmonisation and improvement in the salary structure of teachers and the implementation of the standard working year for education personnel in the Dutch Caribbean. On Saba the agreement was signed by Island Governor Jonathon Johnson. “I am pleased that we are signing the “Proposal for Salary Structure Harmonization and for Improvement and Implementation of a Standard Working Year for Teaching Staff in the Dutch Caribbean” today. As a former teacher and former director of the high school I know that this discussion has been ongoing for many years. We are pleased that the Ministry of Education also sees the importance of this by making the necessary financial injection to realize the proposed salary structure harmonization. Today is an important step to ensure that those who work in the field of education are compensated in a harmonized manner throughout the Dutch Caribbean”, remarked Johnson.
Commissioner Glenville Schmidt of St. Eustatius was also positive about this development in education. “I am very pleased that the Ministry of Education has taken up the challenge to achieve improvement in the compensation package of teachers. This agreement we are signing today is a first step to giving teachers what they deserve financially. We implore the Ministry to continue working on this aspect of education as they are on many other fronts, so that the quality of our education can be enhanced. I also ask teachers to continue to be focused on the results of their students that will bring satisfaction to all stakeholders involved”.
According to Bonaire’s Education Commissioner Sylvana Serfilia, “The implementation of harmonisation and an improvement in the salary structure of the teaching personnel is mainly a stimulus for the further development of the standard working year on which they have been working with great effort for already a while. And this we appreciate as government, that we strive together for improving the quality of the education here on Bonaire”
With the signing of the agreement the islands declared to be in agreement with the implementation of the so-called standard working year of 1659 hours. The Minister made this a precondition. Within that standard working year 10% of the working hours are available for training and education of the teachers.
Press release RCN, March 28, 2012