Teachers promised interim salary increase of 6-8%
– strike called off following meeting with PresidentBy Samuel SukhnandanTeachers will receive an interim salary increase ranging from six to eight per cent, retroactive to January 1, 2017.Executive members of the Guyana Teachers Union making their way out of State House on Monday following a meeting with President David Granger and other top Government officialsThis decision was made following a meeting between officials of the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU), President David Granger and several top Government officials at State House on Monday.During the meeting, the two sides agreed to the establishment of a high-level task force comprising representatives from the Ministries of Education, Finance, Communities, Public Service and Presidency and representatives of the Union.GTU President Mark Lyte disclosed that the first meeting of the Task Force was set for Wednesday, November 1, 2017 after which a decision would be made on the timeline for the work of the Committee. He said the meeting also led to the planned two-day teachers’ strike being called off.“We would like to say now coming out of this meeting and fruitful discussion, the way forward on this…the President exhibited a lot of interest in what was going to be happening and we believe that we have reached a point where we can safely say that the Union will no longer be going forward with the strike that was planned for Thursday and Friday,” the top GTU official told media operatives.Asked whether he thought that the stand taken by the Union helped to fast track this meeting with the President and led to the setting of the committee, Lyte responded in the affirmative. “We believe that the action taken was one that was needed, because it seems as though no one was really paying attention to the interest of the teachers other than talk in public forum (about) teachers’ interest, but we feel coming out of today’s meeting, the President has been made aware of several things that were decided at different forum that in our view never went to the level that we thought it would have been placed.”In a joint statement issued on Monday, it stated that Education Minister Nicolette Henry has consented to taking the issue of the composition of the Task Force to Cabinet today, Tuesday, October 31, 2017. Apart from that, the Task Force will hold its first meeting to establish timelines for its meetings and the completion of its work. The Union has also agreed to provide a complete dossier of its financial and non-financial submissions by Wednesday, November 1, 2017.It was also noted that 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.During a meeting on Thursday, October 26, a delegation from the GTU staged a walkout during discussions about a proposed multi-year agreement. Present at that meeting were Education Minister Henry, Chief Education Officer Marcel Hutson and team, while the Union had its President, General Secretary Coretta McDonald and other union members present.According to the Ministry in a statement after the meeting, the walkout was prompted by Minister Henry informing the Union that Government could only offer teachers the same increases it offered all public servants. Dissatisfied with the response, the GTU President decided that the meeting should not continue and together with his colleagues left the boardroom.According to the Ministry, the GTU had informed them it had no problem with the Government’s approach to non-financial issues, based on the last meeting the Union had with officials. The problems reportedly arose from the financial aspect of discussions which included salary increases, debunching, allowances and duty-free concessions.Lyte stated that the walkout resulted from the Government not addressing the Union’s substantive proposal. While noting that they remained open to talks with the Government, Lyte revealed that the Union would have commenced a countrywide strike from this week.The GTU President had said that after more than two years, officials at the Education Ministry remain reluctant to have a sit-down with the Union and discuss debunching payments. He had noted that the teachers were becoming more frustrated by the day, and warned of the consequences if the teachers decided to down tools to make their voices heard.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 was 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.