Last Updated on Tuesday, 3 October 2023, 9:45 by Denis Chabrol
An executive member of the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) has said that that bargaining agent did not recognise a Ministry of Education invitation attend President Irfaan Ali’s meeting with teachers.
“Please don’t disrespect us teachers by never formally even inviting GTU to your consultation that seeks to bypass an elected and constituted body,” GTU General Council representative for Bartica, Sergio Joseph said on the union’s Facebook page hours after Monday’s meeting.
President Ali early Tuesday morning reiterated that the GTU was invited.
The union official posted a letter from the Ministry of Education’s Permanent Secretary, Shannielle Hoosein-Outar to GTU President Dr Mark Lyte stating that President Ali would have been “meeting with teachers from across the country” on Monday 2nd October at 11 AM at State House” and that “the union is most welcome to attend this meeting.”
Mr Joseph stressed that the union is the proper representative of teachers and head teachers, many of whom attended President Ali’s meeting at State House, were already “highest paid” and could not easily appreciate the need for better conditions of work by their juniors.
“Teachers across this country know that the Union is the only body that represents their interest and head teachers in many instances are just administrators and do not face the struggles in the classrooms,” he said. The GTU official questioned how headteachers could represent their subordinates if in many instances, they were not talking with staff.
Instead, the union official demanded that the Labour Ministry’s Chief Labour Officer accede to the GTU’s request for conciliation in the salaries and wages dispute. “So employer and Ministry of Labour, you have received our request for Conciliation. This is without widespread industrial actions. So if you care, start the process. We will not accept across the board pronouncements like you have done in the past. We will take what you offer and still request the process; so don’t waste our time. Do the right thing,” Mr Joseph said.
Questioning what part of Monday’s meeting was collective bargaining, the GTU Executive member said the Labour Ministry has informed his union that there could be no conciliation because the government was holding discussions with head teachers, deputies, senior and junior teachers.
At Monday’s meeting, at the invitation of President Ali for union officials to speak, Imran Ally, the GTU Central Corentyne Branch Chairman and General Council representative welcomed other teachers’ ideas for non-salary benefits. However, when he reminded the President, government ministers and other officials that the union was still awaiting negotiations on its multi-year proposal that had been tabled on “several occasions.” “It is our intention that we will have that conversation, that dialogue to ensure that we can… inasmuch as we have already started to see many of the requests or demands being acceded to, we are still hoping that we can have the conversation, the dialogue, the engagement in a very non-partisan manner,” the GTU official said.
However, the President appeared to dismiss any idea of collective bargaining between his administration and the GTU. “That’s why we are here all together. You can’t want it more open than this and the union was invited to this also. I can’t be more open than this. We have to be very open about this. I invited not only union, but the teachers and I have allowed everyone to speak frankly what they want to speak beyond any three-year agreement or any proposal because I’ve said from day-one that I believe in a much broader approach to these things,” he said.
The GTU’s proposal calls for a 25 percent across-the-board increase in salary for 2019, and 20 percent for every other year (2020, 2021, 2022, 2023) be granted to all categories of teachers\teacher educators for the years 2019-2023. The union is also asking for an additional performance based incentive of two percent annually of the total teachers’ wage bill for all eligible teachers; a monthly emotional/stress/risk Allowance of $5,000, a monthly internet allowance for GY$10,000; GY$10,000 to all teachers who use their motor vehicles, boats and motor cycles to attend workshops, orientation sessions, emergencies at school, to uplift grants, pay sheets and/or are travelling for the conduct of Teaching Practice organized by the Cyril Potter College of Education; a monthly allowance of GY$7,000 to conduct business on behalf of their institutions.
The teachers, who spoke, said they preferred allowances rather than salary increases which would be taxed.
President Ali also offered to facilitate the granting or mortgages to teachers, and pay GY$700 million to teachers by this month-end to address anomalies in their salaries dating back to September 2020.