Planned teachers’ strike expected to begin today

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Berbice teachers stood united during the meeting with the Guyana Teachers Union on Friday

Outlining that Government has made “no genuine effort to bring relief to the teachers,” the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) in a statement on Sunday made the call for all, including civil society and the business community, to be in solidarity with the nation’s teachers as they seek improved working conditions.

The teachers are likely to take part in a nationwide strike beginning Monday.

“The struggle of the teachers for a living wage and the importance of sustaining themselves to perform require having their needs met and these can only be addressed at the negotiation table. Teachers are seeking an agreement with the employer, the Government of Guyana, after the last four-year agreement signed with the PPP/C Government expired in 2015,” the GTUC reminded.

The Union expressed its dismay over Government’s non-implementation of the Task Force’s Report which recommended salary increases of 40 per cent.

The GTUC said it is also perturbed by recent suggestions by Government that it would  employ substitutes should teachers proceed on strike.

The body feels Government should address the “lingering” grievances, having observed that strike action is consistent with the Collective Labour Agreement and Article 147 (2) of the Guyana Constitution. The body remarked that teachers should be able to function in an environment where learning will benefit the students.

“Teachers are the backbone of a country’s development. Their role is multifaceted and not confined to solely teaching and marking papers. Teachers also act as parents, mentors, custodians, counsellors, providers (meals, school supplies, etc) and a shoulder to cry on, even as they have to meet their families’ psychosocial and economic needs,” GTUC outlined.

The GTUC says failure to arrive at resolution could result in the nation’s children suffering.
“We owe it to our children to enjoy a good environment of education. Where the teachers are happy, they will be more productive. It is our nation’s children that are at risk when the education system is adversely affected. When our children suffer, we suffer, the community suffers, and the nation suffers,” it noted.

The Union body called on the Government to “come to the bargaining table in good faith and address the teachers’ grievance. Three years is a long time.”

GTU President, Mark Lyte

Meanwhile, GTU President Mark Lyte recently noted that the Union has established measures in place to provide some relief for teachers who will be on strike on Monday; one week from the September 3 opening. However, he says it will not be full compensation as the Union was initially thinking of doing.

Heads and other teachers are expected to be in school all week to prepare for the new school year.

“The relief that we were going to give was not to give teachers a top up; we were going to pay them for the days they lost, so when teachers collected their salaries with the deductions, the Union was expected to pick up the difference and the Union hadn’t the capacity to do so. So I am declaring that the Union does not have the capacity to do so; so teachers have got to be prepared to make a sacrifice. However, I have gotten a commitment from some business entities that they will assist with food stuff and so on should the strike prolong,” Lyte told teachers in Berbice on Friday.

Lyte had however noted that it is not written in stone that no monetary contribution will be made to the teachers who go in strike.

One of the main activities slated to be happening during this week is orientation for new students at all schools. If the teachers go on strike, that process might have to be shelved at all schools.

A second round of conciliation talks is scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday) at 14:00h between the GTU and the Education Ministry. This follows last Friday’s meeting which saw the absence of the union. The Education Ministry applied for conciliation to the Social Protection Ministry’s Department of Labour.

The GTU outrightly rejected Government’s request for teachers to agree to a debunching payoff of $200 million for 2018/19 and the $700 million cap that was placed on salary increases which was for 2018 only. The Union is seeking 40 per cent salary increases for its 7000 members. School is scheduled to reopen on September 3.

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