Teachers Union calls out Govt over sloth regarding benefits

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The Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) has has made clear their displeasure over Government’s continued delay regarding the proposed increase and benefits for teachers.

File photo: Members from the GTU meeting with President Granger in October of 2017

This is according to the GTU President, Mark Lyte on Sunday, who said that while Education Minister, Nicolette Henry has said that the matter was now in the hands of Cabinet and that recommendations were made and submitted for initial evaluation, the Union is utterly fed up.

Lyte told this media group that the Union has learnt that the work of the High-Level Task Force of Public Education has been dealt with by Cabinet.

However, he acknowledged that this information has not yet been confirmed by Government, who is yet to make a pronouncement on its decision.

The GTU President also recalled that the Union had written President David Granger about the slow pace at which the negotiations were proceeding.

In this case too, he noted that no response was received.

He said that missive was dispatched on June 5.

President of the GTU, Mark Lyte

Since then, Government responded and said that the Finance Ministry is advising Cabinet on the matter.

The GTU only received the letter last Friday, June 29.

Probed as to whether the Union was confident that a decision could be made soon now that the matter was with Cabinet, the GTU President said there was not even the slightest optimism, given how the issue was dealt with prior.

“We are obviously very concerned because the Task Force has completed its work and we are still to hear from Cabinet on a decision…three months after,” he reminded.

“All we are told is that the Finance Ministry is advising and that is not enough word for comfort,” he added.

The GTU official also pointed out that the Government has been claiming that teachers were important, yet its action seemed to differ as there was no real genuine effort being made to address their needs.

“And just recently, we were being told that private schools are outperforming public schools and only when exam time comes people feel it. But this is a result of the low motivation,” he explained.

The establishment of the Task Force, which comprised Government and Union representatives, followed on the heels of threats of strike action from the GTU in retaliation for the slow pace of addressing the pay increase for teachers. This led to its establishment to fast-track the salary issue.

Earlier in April, the same High-Level Task Force was engaged in a meeting, whereby the factors affecting teachers were discussed, with the possibility of them receiving an increase in their monthly salaries. However, since May, it was revealed that the matter was within the remit of the Finance Ministry.

The Union has proposed a series of increases. These, it said, were proposed with the aim of improving the financial stability of teachers, who are the most significant figures within society.

A 40 per cent salary increase for public school teachers was proposed for the year 2016. Over time, the percentage would be increased for all categories of represented teachers.

For the year 2017, the Union was hoping to have bargained for a 45 per cent increase, which would then increase to 50 per cent for the remainder of the years indicated in the agreement (2018-2020).

Among its list of proposals that are still in queue for a response are the duty-free concessions that the Union has been making pleas for in the past few years.

The proposal had been reapproved by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, in 2017, but since then there have been no further discussions on when or if this would be implemented.

The GTU is hoping that negotiations with this current Administration would see teachers being placed in scales which will reflect the results of the debunching, in keeping with the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) governing the period 2011-2015.

This would mean that teachers with advanced levels of training would be placed on a scale that is different from those of recently-graduated teachers.

Importantly, also, the GTU has proposed that the payment of sums of money in regard to debunching be retroactive to 2011, when the previous MoU was inked. And if the MoU is approved, teachers would also benefit from monthly emotional, stress, risk and maintenance allowances.

The Union had said that the extensive proposal also included benefits for teachers serving in hinterland communities and addressed the need for scholarships and other non-salary issues.’

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