The high-level task force comprising representatives from the Ministries of Education, Finance, Communities, Public Service and the Presidency and, on the other hand, representatives from the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU), have been formed and met for the first time on Wednesday.
However, the work of the task force will commence within the next few weeks following the formulation of the Terms of Reference (TORs).
In a joint statement, the Government and the GTU said that the mandate of the task force is to examine outstanding problems with a view to their timely resolution and to propose a new, multi-year agreement between the Government and the Union. The task force is expected to meet on a weekly basis.
The first meeting was chaired by Education Minister Nicolette Henry and was attended by GTU’s President Mark Lyte; GTU General Secretary Coretta Mc Donald; GTU Treasurer Samanta Alleyene; and GTU Administrative Secretary Lancelot Baptiste.
On the Government side was Chief Education Officer, Marcel Hutson; Education Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Adele Clarke; former Chief Education Officer Geneveive Whyte-Nedd; MoE Legal Officer, Kelly-ann Hercules; Ministry of Presidency’s Political Advisor, Frederick Mc Wilfred; Department of Public Service Senior Personnel Officer, Gail Williams; Finance Ministry Finance Secretary, Dr Hector Butts; Permanent Secretary of the Communities Ministry, Emil Mc Garrell.
All future meetings would be chaired by Whyte-Nedd.
The Union had accused Government of sidelining and disrespecting them, resulting in the Union threatening a countrywide strike if the Government failed to take decisive actions to address the concerns of the representative body. The strike was scheduled for today and tomorrow but was called off following a meeting with President David Granger and Union representatives.
During the meeting, the two sides agreed to the establishment of a high-level task force and teachers will receive an interim salary increase ranging from six to eight per cent, retroactive to January 1, 2017.
President Granger proposed that the discussions take a holistic view on the improvement of the education sector. The Task Force will therefore also take account of the findings of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the education sector in Guyana and other matters relating to the well-being of teachers and students. The intention is to have these issues addressed.
The issues of concern to the Union include the stagnated negotiations between the GTU and the Education Ministry. The negotiations focused on, among other things, increased teachers’ remuneration and outstanding payments.
Additionally, the Union had expressed concern about a memorandum that could see teachers having to work during their designated lunch period. Earlier this year, the GTU contended that teachers across the country were anxious to know when they would receive benefits of the proposed five-year agreement.
In the previous agreement, the GTU managed to get a five per cent increase over the course of five years for teachers countrywide, but is hoping to see implementation of 45 per cent in 2017 and 50 per cent for the following three years (2018-2020) for all categories of teachers.