Looming teachers strike: Education Ministry seeking second meeting

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Nicollette-Henry
Education Minister, Nicolette Henry

The Education Minister, Nicolette Henry on Tuesday evening indicated her intention to meet with the members of the Guyana Teacher’s Union (GTU) later this week to resolve the looming issues regarding salary increases and benefits for teachers countrywide.

“I’m looking at a meeting this week because it’s both urgent and important and therefore we need to ensure that we continue to address and resolve these issues in the most effective way and with also some amount of expediency,” Henry said according to a press statement by the Ministry of Presidency.

Henry also explained that the reason for Government’s side proposing a ball park figure had to do specifically with the process involved in debunching and salary increases.

She noted that the Union was asking for 40 per cent increase across the board, which the Ministry felt would have further compounded the issue related to debunching.

“So we needed to address that issue and so we gave a figure on what is available in terms of financing to address the debunching issue. Once the debunching issue is addressed and teachers in this instance can be categorised and put into scales, then it will give you an opportunity to give what is allocated to salary increases in the respective categories… There is certainly nothing sinister or there is certainly no ulterior motive in awarding the ball park figure, because that did came up in the discussion. I just wanted to provide that clarity because I believe that teachers and the Guyanese people need to understand what was proposed and why it was proposed,” she asserted.

Moreover, on the heels of the GTU calling for a countrywide strike, the Minister stated that the David Granger- led administration is a pro-working class government and therefore believes that engagements for mutual satisfaction must be achieved. She also made it clear that remunerations will be given in keeping with what can be afforded by the administration at this time.

“We, first and foremost believe that we need to engage, that we need to make teachers aware of where we are, what the government is doing and appeal to them that we are doing the best we can in the circumstances. We will ensure that the teachers are given increases in keeping, of course, with what we can afford,” she said.

Last week, the GTU Executives met with Education Minister Henry and Social Protection Minister Amna Ally, among other senior officials, to iron out issues surrounding the teachers’ salary increases.

Mark Lyte
GTU President, Mark Lyte

However, Government shot down the union’s entire proposal in regard to increases.

The union had initially requested a 40 per cent increase in 2016; 45 per cent in 2017, and 50 per cent in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

However, they eventually compromised during the negotiation phase and agreed to accept a 40 per cent to serve as a base from 2016 with 5 percent incremental increase for the remaining years.

The Government was officially informed of the planned action on Monday.

The letter stated that the decision was taken by the GTU on the insistence of its members to call strike action due to failed talks between them and the Ministry of Education (MoE).

The Union views the counter-proposal tabled by MoE as an insult to the integrity of all teachers in Guyana.

“We believe that enough patience was exhibited by the Union to allow MoE to arrive at a satisfactory proposal. Strike will officially commence on 27 August 2018, and will continue until further notice. GTU calls on all teachers to join in this justified action, since our rights are being infringed by our employer. This decision is supported not only by General Council, but our private opinion poll among teachers and civic-minded persons across Guyana indicates that teachers nationwide have full support for this action,” the letter stated.

According to the GTU President, Mark Lyte, the teachers are urged to begin handing over the school’s key to the respective Education Departments.

Lyte, told this media group on Tuesday that the Union would not cave on its promise to not accept any one-off lump sum payment from Government.

“We are not going to be able to take any lump sum payment because that’s not what we’re bringing to the table,” Lyte stressed.

“We haven’t gotten a single response from the Administration, [but] we are still open for talks providing that they come, but the talks have to be definitive because we are not going to renege on our plan. The only way that will be aborted is if the plan that is brought to the table is acceptable and satisfying,” he further asserted on Tuesday.

The Guyana Teachers’ Union has been engaged in discussions with the Government since 2015, when their multi-year agreement came to an end.

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