With just two weeks before the opening of the new school term, the Ministry of Education and the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) have reached an impasse in their final stages of negotiation for salary increases.
As such, GTU President, Mark Lyte says the teachers will still proceed on strike from August 27th.
“We don’t need another meeting…it’s incumbent now on the Minister of Labour to put in place an arbitrator for us to have an arbitrator deliberate on this matter. In the interim, the union has to go forward with its plan, our teachers must send a strong statement,” Lyte told reporters after the meeting which lasted for two hours at the Ministry’s Lot 26 Brickdam, Georgetown office on Thursday.
Also present during his announcement were several teachers who stood in front of the building throughout the meeting.
The Government did not budge from the current $8,000 for clothing allowance and its ballpark figures of $700M and $200M for salary increases and debunching, respectively.
The Ministry was also not prepared to give increased incentives for improved qualifications.
Lyte told reporters that while agreements were met on other issues, money is of utmost importance to the teachers.
“We believe that our increases in terms of finance were extremely important to the cause of our teachers. Our main concern is that our teachers cannot survive on the salaries they are receiving,” he said to the cheers of the teachers who were present.
Minister of Education, Nicolette Henry told the media that there is nothing she can do about the impending strike action.
Addressing the media at the Ministry’s boardroom, she said: “any strike action will certainly have to be determined by the union and we didn’t have any discussion on that issue.”
If the strike action proceeds, the Minister said the Government will have to circulate a memo which seeks to ensure there is an adult at every school during this time and for a determination to be made on whether to recruit teachers or close the schools, among others.
The next step she explained is conciliation followed by arbitration which will be spearheaded by the Ministry of Social Protection’s Department of Labour.
She described the meeting as productive premised on the consensus met on non-financial issues.
The areas agreed on by the Union and the Ministry on Thursday includes:
- Improved salaries for Special Education Needs teachers
- Relieving the burden from Head Teachers at schools with dormitories
- Provision of transportation fares for teachers to return home from hinterland areas once per term
- Setting up of a committee to deal with teachers’ house revolving fund
- Class sizes to be reduced at schools where space is available
There are several other issues which were settled at the stakeholders’ August 9th meeting.
The Minister sought to dispel claims that her government reneged on its promises to teachers prior to the 2015 General and Regional elections noting that there are several other benefits which were given to the teachers.
Minister Henry said however, the Government can only give what it can afford.