Teachers express support for strike action as Union hosts engagement

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WhatsApp Image 2018-08-20 at 11.07.16 AM
GTU president Mark Lyte (standing) engaging with the assembled teachers

Executives of the Guyana Teacher’s Union (GTU) hosted the first of two engagements on Monday morning, where teachers expressed their full support to commence strike action as at August 27, 2018, in protest of Government not granting them their requested salary increases.

The meeting was held in the GTU’s Woolford Avenue, Georgetown Headquarter’s union hall and was packed to capacity.

Last Thursday, it was reported that the impasse between the GTU and the Education Ministry remains unchanged following a stalemate between the two sides over salary increases; and union President Mark Lyte maintained that the August 27 countrywide strike will go ahead as planned.

Immediately following the union’s strike announcement, subject Minister, Nicolette Henry held an emergency press conference where she signaled that Government is already considering alternative measures to deal with the fallout from any strike action.

The breakdown of talks followed a meeting between GTU representatives ,Education Minister and labour officials at the Education Ministry.

WhatsApp Image 2018-08-20 at 11.07.10 AM
The teachers gathered during the GTU enga

The discussions lasted over two hours and certain agreements were agreed upon but both sides held steadfast to their positions on salary increases as the union contemplates legal advice on its next moves.

“We are coming out very dissatisfied with this engagement for the simple reason that our salary issues were a major concern here. Increases in salaries and other financial benefits have all been pushed down; it remains the same. The union’s position would have to remain the same – disagreeing with them,” the GTU President asserted.

Lyte told members of the media that the GTU outright rejected Government’s request for teachers to agree to a debauching payoff of $200 million for 2018/19.

He said the Union similarly rejected the $700 million cap that was placed on salary increases.

The stalemate also revealed that Government was not budging on the clothing allowance which remains at $8000.

Lyte said too that for Whitley Council leave, teachers still have to wait four years before getting their one month off.

He revealed that the Ministry indicated that it wants to maintain school boards with an improved staff, but the GTU is not in favour of this proposal since school boards and the Teaching Service Commission are “operating at a different level and there are a lot of problems”.

He however noted that the meeting did see the Ministry and the GTU come to an agreement for improved salaries for (SEN) Special Education Needs teachers which would help those schools that have dormitories to remove some of the “burden” that rests with head teachers.

The two sides also determined that hinterland teachers will be allowed to return to their homes once per term. Lyte added that the Education Ministry is setting up a revolving fund committee to deal with the Teacher House Revolving Fund.

He further stated that there was some consensus on class sizing for certain categories of schools. Despite these agreements, Lyte was adamant that teachers must not accept what has been proposed.

“Incumbent now on the Minister of Labour to put in place an arbitrator-deliberator on this matter but in interim, the Union has to go forward with its plan; our teachers must send a strong statement, we don’t believe there will be another meeting,” Lyte stressed on Thursday.

Observing that industrial action is completely up to the Union’s discretion, Minister Henry pointed to legal stipulations that govern what the Education Ministry can do to cushion a situation where teachers would be off the job.

In the meantime, however, she said she will make contact with Union representatives by Sunday afternoon.

“There is the internal Standard Operational Procedure (SoP) that is utilised by the Ministry of Education and its dated 2003 and the Permanent Secretary at that time would have circulated that and that was in effect and it would need to be reactivated and circulated is there is need for that to be,” Minister Henry committed.

The GTU envisions that 90 per cent of teachers in the public schools were ready to support their union’s move.

Negotiations have been ongoing since 2015 when the Multi-Year Agreement came to an end.

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