Meeting teachers’ new salary demands will cost billions, Gov’t says

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Education Minister Nicolette Henry and CEO Marcel Hutson at a recent meeting with parents

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — The Guyana government says it will cost the state $4billion (One Guyana dollar=US$0.004 cents) if it is to meet the demands by striking teachers for a 40 per cent and incremental five per cent salary increases as being demanded by their union.

Education Minister Nicolette Henry and Chief Education Officer, Marcel Hutson, speaking at a news conference here on Monday night, said that while no new figure had been put forward to the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU), talks were ongoing with the Ministry of Finance on the issue.

“We have not been able to have that information as yet from the Ministry of Finance in terms of the additional funding that they were tasked to seek at this point in time, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Adele Clarke, told reporters.

Henry said that the Ministry of Education is still in favour of conciliatory talks to end the strike that affected the official start of the new school term on Monday.

“We’re now waiting on the Ministry of Social Protection to call both parties…the Ministry of Education’s position is that both parties, we look at their proposal and bring that for discussion at the conciliation phase but we have not been able to get an agreement on that,” Henry said.

“Due process is required and when going through these procedures we don’t have an opportunity to cherry pick which stage we go through. We have to go through stage by stage and exhaust each stage before we arrive at the other stage. That is the procedure by which we’re guided,” she said.

The government has said it is offering GUY$700 million to cover across the board increases and GUY$200 million to cover debunching. But the GTU said it is still pressing its demand for a 40 per cent wage hike for teachers and incremental five per cent salary increases.

On Monday, GTU general secretary, Coretta McDonald told striking teachers that while she does not want to get political, she believes it is important to compare the state of teachers under the last People’s Progressive Party (PPP) government and the current coalition administration.

She said that while the PPP may have only given teachers a five per cent increase in their salaries during its time in office, the increase was accompanied by non-tax benefits.

“If we look at what happened with the PPP government when they were in power and what is transpiring now, remember we didn’t want a five per cent, but with the five per cent, we got a whole lot of non-tax benefits….

“So for the first time in the history of this country, our teachers were able to get clothing allowance, duty free concessions, and allowance for special confirmations, while the PPP government was in power. And I don’t want to sound political but we have to make a comparison”, she told the striking teachers.

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