BREAKING: Teachers to strike after salary talks break down

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 October 2017, 17:30 by Denis Chabrol

GTU President, Mark Lyte (standing) during the breakdown of salary talks with a Ministry of Education team led by Minister Nicolette Henry seated opposite Mr. Lyte.

The Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) on Thursday said teachers would from next week take strike action after salary negotiations collapsed when Minister of Education, Nicolette Henry said government could not afford to pay teachers more than they are paying public servants.

General Secretary of the GTU, Coretta Mc Donald told Demerara Waves Online News that thousands of teachers would next Thursday and Friday strike twice weekly to pressure government into paying teachers higher salaries.

She said teachers countrywide, the Department of Labour of the Ministry of Social Protection, and the Ministry of Education were being notified. “We are going to go into full strike action mode across the country until somebody in authority can talk with us,” she said.

Saying that “we regard today as a very dark day in education” in which teachers were bullied to accept meagre salary increases, Mc Donald accused the government side of lying repeatedly. “The Minister seemed to be saying to us  in actual fact that we must not have bullying in schools but it’s alright to bully the teachers’ representatives,” she told Demerara Waves Online News.

GTU negotiators were demanding a 40 percent salary hike,  in contrast to the unilateral wage and salary hike of between eight percent for those earning GYD$55,000 monthly and half a percent for those earning GYD$1 million that government has provided to public servants.

Guyana Teachers’ Union representatives walk out of salary negotiations with the Minister of Education, Nicolette Henry and her team after she told them that they would be entitled to same salary increases as public servants.

“Minister of Education, Hon. Nicolette Henry informed the GTU representatives that the government at this time can only offer wage increases in keeping with those offered to public servants. Teachers, being public servants therefore will also benefit from the proposed wage increases,” the Ministry of Education said in a statement.

However, Mc Donald said that increase would mean little or nothing to Guyanese public school teachers. “Quite a lot of our teachers will not benefit from what they are offering because the increases that they are going to be getting will be heavily taxed,” she said.

The GTU General Secretary recalled that the Minister of State, Joseph Harmon had last week said that the agreement with public servants would be different from the proposed multi-year agreement for teachers.

The range of public servants’ wage and salary increases is eight percent for those earning between GYD$55,555  to GYD$99,999; six percent for those earning GYD$100,000 to GYD$299,999; five percent for those at the moment whose salaries are GYD$300,000 to GYD$499,999 ; four percent for those earning GYD$500,000 to GYD$699,999 ;  two percent if your salaries are now GYD$700,000 to GYD$799,000 and half percent for those earning GYD$800,000 to GYD$1 million.

Among the promises to teachers contained in the APNU+AFC coalition’s 2015 election campaign manifesto is that government will “immediately review and correct the existing deficiencies in the remuneration and conditions
of service of teachers”.