Catholic school takes staff lay-off option off the table

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Teachers at the privately run St John’s Catholic Primary School (SJCPS) will no longer be deprived of a pay cheque during the summer, as the school’s Board of Directors has rescinded its decision to lay off staff.

Yesterday, the SJCPS Board announced that, “after further dialogue and negotiations over the last week, a compromise was reached and a decision was made not to proceed with this course of action”.

In a May 28 letter, the SJCPS had informed the teachers’ bargaining agent, the Antigua and Barbuda Union of Teachers (A&BUT), that the educators would be laid off using a two-phased approach, starting with the first 16 on June 1, and the remainder on June 8.

It also informed the union that the “staff may be recalled on or before November 1 2020”.

However, yesterday’s communiqué stated that laying off the teachers was a last resort which became an option as a result of the school’s worsening financial situation.

“While the laying-off of staff is not the preferred position of the school, the main source of income for SJCPS is from the payment of school fees. However, as a result of the socio-economic challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, the school extended a discounted tuition fee with the further intention that the timely payment of school fees would allow the school to meet its financial obligations,” the statement read.

“Unfortunately, the school was faced with an unprecedented situation where 80 percent of fees remain outstanding even after several attempts have been made to recoup the funds from parents … therefore, we would like to take this opportunity to appeal to parents/guardians of SJCPS with outstanding fees to contact the school and make the necessary arrangements to settle all outstanding term fees at the earliest convenience.”

Noting that SJCPS has been delivering a holistically Catholic education, and positively moulding young minds within the principles and values of the Gospel teachings for over 35 years, it added that the institution values the hard work and contribution of all staff, “to include dedicated teachers who often selflessly give of their best to maintain the quality of education and school standards that has allowed it to be a formidable primary school in Antigua and Barbuda”.

The SJCPS expressed optimism that all concerned parties will arrive at an amicable solution that will allow the school to continue its operations when it reopens for the new academic year on September 7.

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