Weeks after a high-level task force comprising representatives from the Ministries of Education, Finance, Communities, Public Service and Presidency and representatives of the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) was formed, all parties have come to an agreement on the Terms of Reference (TORs) for the negotiations that will look at increases and other benefits for teachers.
While there were a few hiccups during the first few weeks after the task force was established, all parties were able to meet and discuss several important issues with the aim of moving forward with the negotiation process. General Secretary of GTU Coretta McDonald told this news outfit that she is pleased with the progress made so far and looks forward to the process being a smooth one.
“We have been able to look at some aspects of what GTU would have submitted (non-salaries) and both the Ministry of Education and the GTU have agreed to take those to Cabinet for approval and then we are going to be looking at the rest of issues. In fact those that we looked at are issues that don’t require much confusion which may have prolonged the discussions,” she explained.
McDonald said the team is expected to complete their task on or before December 20. She said in the recommendations to Cabinet they will request that those benefits that are approved are fully rolled out in 2018. “And those financial aspect which Cabinet will have to deliberate more on that those will go through the process for further discussions and deliberations,” she added.
The task force was set up to examine outstanding problems with a view to their timely resolution and to propose a new, multi-year agreement between the Government and the GTU. The task force is expected to meet on a weekly basis.
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 November 2-3 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.