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Former Education Minister Leonardo Garnier blames old system for backlog in teachers’ salaries

May 21, 2014
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Former Education Minister Leonardo Garnier on Wednesday evening said that a backlog in payment of public teachers’ salaries did not originate from the transition to a new computer system, but rather from problems caused by the old payment system.

Garnier took to Twitter and other social media to address ongoing criticism that holds him responsible for the wage problems that caused a national strike that began on May 5.

“It is true, there are teachers who have not received their salaries since February and March, but mostly, there are teachers who did not receive wages for extra hours in those first months. For decades, even though teachers begin to work in February, they received their first payment in May or even in June. This is unfair, of course, and is an inefficient system. It violates the right to receive salaries. … But that has been the reality at MEP,” Garnier stated.

“It makes no sense to blame a transition that seeks to leave behind an outdated and fragile system that has caused many problems for educators and for the government itself.”

Garnier said the decision to migrate to a new payment system capable of offering a lower margin of error was analyzed for five years by experts from the Education Ministry, the Finance Ministry and Civil Service.

Garnier also said that ministry staff received extensive training and conducted a total of nine tests between the old and the new systems before completing the migration in April.

“The transition worked well for most teachers, but not for all of them. Only 1,409 of the 75,000 MEP employees were not paid at all; and some 6,000 received salaries but were not paid for extra lessons. To solve the problem, we scheduled two extra payments to be delivered during the first half of May,” he said.

On Wednesday evening, current Education Minister Sonia Marta Mora asked some 3,000 teachers who have not been paid to visit any of the 27 MEP regional offices starting Thursday to begin the process to receive back pay, following an emergency protocol implemented by the ministry.

“We are doing everything we can to resolve this issue as soon as possible. There is a group of MEP officials working exclusively on this starting tomorrow [Thursday], and we expect the first payments to be made within hours,” Mora said at a press conference.

Payments will be made via bank deposits once the administrative procedures outlined in an agreement between the Costa Rican Banking Association and the Finance Ministry are concluded.

Teachers’ union leaders, however, on Wednesday evening responded to the government’s offer by saying the strike would continue until all teachers are paid.

The National Association of Educators (ANDE) posted a message on their Facebook profile asking members to attend a 9 a.m. meeting on Thursday at Napoleón Quesada School in Zapote, next to Casa Presidencial, to discuss the government proposal.

ANDE President Gilberto Cascante said unions on Friday will meet with government officials at 3 p.m. to discuss the results of Thursday’s actions at MEP.

Earlier on Wednesday, President Luis Guillermo Solís again asked teachers to return to the classrooms.

“Enough is enough with this conflict. The proposal we made is reasonable and it was not the first. We already have offered eight or nine proposals, and now there is no plan B,” Solís told reporters. “If protests continue, we will proceed as needed to avoid public disorder.”

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