- 40% increase proposal was just a starting point for negotiations
- GTU says the strike could last as long as one month
- Teachers will be compensated for salaries lost during the strike
- Union tells parents that children could be ‘idle’ if sent to school
- President Granger blamed for causing countrywide strike
By Devina Samaroo
With teachers countrywide on strike for better salaries, their Union says it is prepared to financially support them during this period which could last as long as a month.
After three years of negotiations for better pay, the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) said it will not be accepting Government’s paltry proposal of $700M to be divided among roughly 10,000 persons.
GTU President Mark Lyte said he is prepared to accept lower than the Union’s proposed 40% across the board increase for 2016 and a single digit increase for the years onward until 2020.
If Government’s proposal is accepted and applied for one year alone, teachers will get an estimated $5000 increase on their salaries per month, Lyte explained.
“The Union always knew that we had an option to negotiate down. What has not happened is that the Government did not bring a percentage for us to negotiate down, they brought a ballpark figure,” Lyte explained to reporters at a press conference at the GTU Headquarters on Tuesday.
“The starting point was at 40% with the hope that we could negotiate our way down to an acceptable percentage,” he added.
The GTU strongly believes that the Government can afford to make a better offer since it was their own members who recommended an initial 40% salary increase in a report which was submitted to the Cabinet.
In 2015, the Union – as is customary – submitted its multiyear agreement which included proposals for salary increases and other benefits for the nation’s educators.
Initial talks broke down and the Government then imposed across the board salary increases for all public servants for 2016 and 2017.
Teachers were told that those increases were for the interim as the discussion continued.
In October 2017, the Union threatened to strike but President Granger intervened and established a task force to examine the Union’s proposal.
The task force, which included Government officials and Union representatives, submitted its report of recommendations to Cabinet.
On August 9, 2018, the Ministry of Education met with the Union and made counterproposals which were rejected by the GTU.
The full impact of this massive strike action will be felt next week when schools reopen after the two-month break but the Government is currently rolling out an emergency plan which includes dispatching retirees and trainee teachers to public educational institutions.
To those teachers, the GTU wished them “good luck” even as it questioned the merit of Government’s plan, and cautioned parents to consider whether they trust their kids to be supervised under such conditions.
According to GTU General Secretary Coretta McDonald, the Government will have to stand the expense of providing accommodation and travelling allowances for the backup teachers to outlying regions.
To parents, she said: “whether you want to send your child to idle or to be ‘god forbid’ anyone to interfere with them, or anyone to mislead them with the curriculum, that’s your decision.”
The GTU General Secretary also had a few words of caution for those teachers who will not be participating in the strike.
“Accepting the keys to the school, it’s your responsibility to write the log at the end of the day, ensure children are being taught, school doors are closed and when we submit our keys and inventories, and if anything goes missing, then you will have to account for it,” McDonald stated.
For those teachers going on strike, the GTU said it has enough finances to offer them financial relief.
Depending on the number of teachers who join the movement, the GTU noted that they can offer both partial and full compensation for the monies teachers will be losing if they partake in the strike.
NO CONFIDENCE IN LABOUR DEPARTMENT
Meanwhile, the GTU will be meeting with the Ministry of Education on Wednesday for conciliatory talks, supervised by the Ministry of Social Protection’s Department of Labour.
However, GTU President contended that the entire Ministry of Social Protection is in no position to be impartial to act as arbitrators.
Therefore, Lyte says the GTU it is prepared to have an independent body – comprising representatives from both the Government and Union and an impartial individual – arbitrate the proceedings going forward.
Meanwhile, the GTU has blamed President David Granger for causing this strike action. The Union argued that it was the Head-of-State who set up a task force to make recommendations on the issue, yet his Government is ignoring the proposals of that task force.
“The Guyana Teachers’ Union lays the full blame, the full blame I repeat, of this strike action, at the feet of His Excellency President David Granger who put a task force in place and refuse to act on its recommendations,” Lyte posited.