President David Granger and top officials of the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) on Monday held talks aimed at staving off another strike by teachers.
GTU General Secretary, Coretta Mc Donald told the media briefly that the President addressed the meeting and new proposals for a salary increase and adjusting salary scales were made.
No details were provided, but she said the union was considering the new proposals made by the President and team and the union would be making known its position by Wednesday to the government.
“At the meeting today there were some proposals thrown on the table but the GTU has some more consultations to do and we still need to do some tidying up on both sides so we are going to meet again very soon to resolve those issues that have not been resolved so that our teachers can start smiling maybe at the end of this month, maybe in November but most likely in December,” said Mc Donald in the first optimistic tone by the union in months.
The union had previously rejected a GY$700 million ball-park amount for salary increases for 2018 and GY$200 million for adjusting some salary scales, and had embarked on a two-week strike. Originally, the union had demanded 40 percent salary increase for 2016 and five percent annually until 2020.
Accompanying the President in the talks were Minister of Education, Nicolette Henry; Chief Education Officer, Marcel Hutson and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education.
President Granger summoned the meeting after the GTU began mobilising teachers again to embark on another strike, this time to press demands for the appointment of a mutually acceptable Chairman of the three-member Arbitration Panel. Asked on Monday whether consideration of the new offers would mean a withdrawal of the arbitration process, the GTU General Secretary said that would depend on whether the union accepts government’s latest proposals.
“We have not reached that stage as yet because as we said there are offers being thrown on the table so if those offers are being bought into then we will have all of those letters sent out there rescinded,” she said. “hose are the fineries that we have to work out between today and Wednesday. Working them out will say to us whether we go arbitration or we stick with the new offers on the table,” she added.
The GTU is opposed to the unilateral appointment of Professor Leyland Lucas as the Chairman by Junior Minister of Labour Keith Scott on the grounds that he is employed by the Guyana government.
This is the second time in almost one year that the President has intervened in the pay dispute, the first having ended up in a controversial task force report and eventually a strike. The GTU General Secretary, nevertheless, expressed optimism that the Guyanese leader’s intervention would yield some success this time around.
“The situation at this time is different. I think both sides have looked at what each other is offering. We are on the road to one mutual respect was shown which was one of the issues that was lacking or one of the main ingredient that was lacking and that is now on the table again and with that being on the table I think we are heading in the right direction but let me say to you arbitration is not off the table,” she said.
GTU President, Mark Lyte has already said the union had been willing to consider a 20 percent increase instead of the 40 percent that had been publicly demanded.