The Guyana Teachers’ Union on Thursday decided to take strike action after the latest round of pay talks broke down again, in just under two years, union President Mark Lyte said.
“The way forward is that we are now mandated by our members to take industrial action commencing from the pre-term and will very well lead into the first week of school providing that government comes back to the table with something tangible that we can accept,” he told reporters. He said no teachers would be going to school for from August 27 and for the first week of school and the continuation of industrial action would depend on a reasonable offer by the government.
Representatives of all of the GTU’s branches and members of the GTU’s executive agreed that they would embark on strike action from August 27, 2018 which means that there would be no preparation of schemes of work, registration of students or orientation exercises ahead of the commencement of the new school year in September.
At the three-hour meeting Minister of Education, Nicolette Henry, Ministers responsible for Labour Amna Ally and Keith Scott and other senior officials, government did not offer a specific salary increase to the union representatives.
In its counter-proposal to the GTU’s request for a 40 percent salary increase dating back to 2015 in a multi-year agreement, the Ministry of Education said government was prepared to “make available a ball park figure” of GY$700 million to pay increased salaries to all teachers based on the current salary scale for 2018. The union rejected the proposal on the grounds that it the amount does not cater for increases retroactive to 2015 in contrast to its promises. At the same time, the GTU agreed that the Ministry of Education should hire a specialist to calculate the percentage of increase per category.
Minister Ally indicated that while the Guyana Teachers Union demands are not unreasonable, consideration should be given to the economic status of the Government -what the Government can and cannot afford at this juncture.
GTU Vice President, Lesmeine P. Collins accused the David Granger-led APNU+AFC of breaking its promises to teachers and then engaging in “delaying tactics”. “Some of the things we are asking for we were promised by this government when they were in opposition. They promised us!,” she told reporters. Collins expressed frustration that the teachers’ low salaries did not allow them to borrow loans from banks easily.
Government agreed to grant 20 additional scholarships to teachers only in science at the University of Guyana and duty free concessions for vehicles.
Last year November, when negotiations between the GTU and the Ministry failed and the union had threatened strike action, President Granger had established a task force of representatives from the union and government.
However, that Task Force report displeased the Finance Minister Winston Jordan and he then prepared briefing paper for Cabinet that formed the position that the government team presented to the union on Thursday.
There also appeared to be little movement on non-salary benefits such as the GTU’s demand for an annual clothing allowance of GY$25,000 from January, 2016. Government offered to instead keep it at GY$8,000 from the new school year 2018-2019. Likewise, government did not budge on increasing allowances for higher qualifications, saying it should remain at GY$4,000 for a certificate, GY$6,000 for a diploma, GY$10,000 for a Masters and GY$30,000 for a doctorate. The union had wanted GY$ 7,000 for a Certificate in Education; GY$10,000 for a Diploma; GY$25,000 for a Masters, GY$35,000 for a Doctoral Degree, GY$6,000 for a Management Certificate and GY$10,000 for a Special Needs Certificate.
The GTU also did not get its way for the payment for Whitley Council Leave every three years because government prefers to pay it every four years.
Government also threw out the union’s request for a duty free concession for a union vehicle every two years and one duty free vehicle for each executive member of the union upon their appointment.