…as Union agrees to an interim salary increase ranging from 6 to 8%
By Ramona Luthi
The President of the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU), Mark Lyte on Monday afternoon confirmed that the discussion with the President, David Granger, with regards to salary negotiations for teachers proved to be “fruitful”.
“We had a very fruitful meeting with the President, the Minister of Education, Minister Hastings and other officials” he told media operatives following the conclusion of that meeting at State House.
Lyte posited that due to the fact that “the President exhibited a lot of interest” in the matter at hand, the Union’s original plans to stage a strike on Thursday and Friday have been brought to a halt.
While he did not elaborate as to the agreements made in the meeting, the GTU President noted that a “High-Level Task Force” comprising of representatives from the Ministries of Education, Finance, Communities, Public Service and Presidency as well as GTU officials will be established.
In a joint press statement subsequently issued by the Ministry of Presidency, it was explained that the Task Force is expected to be constituted by Wednesday and that the Education Minister, Nicolette Henry “has consented to taking the issue of the composition of the body to Cabinet tomorrow.”
“The Task Force will hold its first meeting to establish timelines for its meetings and the completion of its work,” the press statement said, while asserting that “the Union has agreed to provide a complete dossier of its financial and non-financial submissions by Wednesday.”
Further, in the meeting, Granger proposed that the discussions take a holistic view on the improvement of the education sector and as such, the Task Force will take into account the findings of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the Education Sector and other matters relating to the well-being of teachers and students.
In the meantime, teachers will receive an interim salary increase ranging from six to eight per cent, retroactive to January 1, 2017.
Teachers were on Thursday last asked by the GTU to prepare for possible strike action this week following a major disagreement with the Ministry of Education on salary increases, which led to representatives of the GTU walking out of the discussion.
According to the Education Ministry in a statement after the meeting, the walk out was prompted by Minister Henry informing the Union that Government could only offer teachers the same increases it offered all public servants.
Government had announced its “final offer” to the unionized workers in the Public Service—an increase in the minimum wage from $55,000 per month to $60,000 along with staggered increases in wages and salaries with the band of lowest paid workers being offered an eight per cent increase.
The Union however, has been seeking across the board salary increases of 40 per cent for 2016, 45 per cent for 2017, 50 per cent for 2018, 2019 and 2020 respectively.
Furthermore, they requested that the teachers be given a 3 per cent performance based incentive per year throughout the multi-year agreement.
GTU is also advocating for teachers to be paid double for the month of December.
Additionally, the Union is firmly demanding that teachers be granted increased salaries per each qualification- which means teachers with Certificates of Education, management certificates, Diplomas, Degrees and Master’s Degree will receive an additional amount ranging from $6,000 to $35,000.
Moreover, the Ministry is expected to provide a uniform allowance on a yearly basis of $25,000.
The GTU is also calling for duty free concessions for vehicles up to 2700c for Head Teachers.
Prior to the meeting with the Education Ministry on Thursday, GTU President Mark Lyte had said that protest action was imminent since after more than two years, officials at the Ministry of Education remain reluctant to have a sit down with the Union and discuss debunching payments.
He had noted that the teachers are becoming more frustrated by the day, and warned of the consequences if the teachers decide to down tools to make their voices heard.
“Another budget would be presented and we have not come to an agreement for the proposal. We believe that this is disrespectful and comes in direct contravention to the labour agreement (in effect) between the Ministry and the Union, and it is a clear fact that this Administration is not seeking to properly remunerate our teachers,” Lyte had said.
Following the initial walk out, a meeting was held with the State Minister, Joseph Harmon on Friday last, after which a joint press statement was then issued outlining that the first meeting with the team from the Education Ministry was “never intended to be the final position of the Administration but rather an interim arrangement.”
Harmon in the joint statement was attributed as saying that “the President was very concerned about the reports regarding the outcome of the meeting between the Union and the Ministry of Education and had signalled his willingness to meet with the Union on Monday October 30, 2017 at 11:00 a.m. to discuss all matters of concern to the Union.”
The Union indicated its acceptance of the President’s offer and “iterated that it was committed to the process of Collective Bargaining and that it would bring these developments to the attention of its members.”