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Proposed increases in teachers’ salaries, allowances trigger govt headache

FLASH BACK: LABOUR DAY 2018-President of the Guyana Teachers’ Union, Mark Lyte leads his contingent on the May Day march through the streets of Georgetown.

Hefty salary increases and other benefits that have been recommended by a High-Level Task Force that examined demands by the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) have triggered renewed warnings against unrealistic expectations from an oil economy, Finance Ministry sources said.

The draft report, which has been already dispatched to President David Granger and is expected to be considered by the Cabinet, was crafted by several government and union representatives.

The Task Force concluded that its proposals were feasible based on the country’s economy. “In making our recommendations we also took into account the state of the country’s economy and also the situation of our students, youths and adults in the hinterland and deep riverine areas, as regards equity in education and living conditions. It was felt that much more can be
done to improve their standard of living,” states the report.

Now, the Finance Ministry has since distilled the Task Force report before making a presentation to Cabinet on what government can realistically afford. “The matter was referred to the Ministry of Finance because there are some very serious financial implications in the recommendations that were made by the Committee. The Ministry of Finance has now done an assessment and given its report on what came to it and that report is now going to be presented to the Cabinet for the Cabinet to discuss,” Minister of State, Joseph Harmon said. He said government was not only paying attention to teachers’ salaries but also improving their working conditions.

The government team on the Task Force was led  by the Ministry of Finance’ Finance Secretary, Dr. Hector Butts and the union’s side by its President, Mark Lyte.

The document seen by Demerara Waves Online News recommends, among other things, a 40 percent increase on the 2015 salary as the base, and 5 percent incrementally for the remaining years of the agreement, a GY$5,000 risk allowance for teachers working in poor conditions, a commuted travel allowance on par with what the wider public servants receive, higher travel allowance for teachers who travel in their own vehicles, and a monthly allowance for teachers who have earned higher qualifications.

If accepted by Cabinet, holders of a Certificate in Education will take home GY$7,000 every month; Diploma in Education GY$10,000; Masters Degree GY$25,000; Doctoral Degree GY$35,000 and Management Certificate GY$6,000.

Additionally, teachers in Special Schools have been recommended to receive a monthly allowance of GY$10,000, while all teachers are being recommended to receive a 100 percent increase in clothing allowance to take it up to GY$16,000.

However, Finance Ministry sources are concerned that government’s coffers cannot afford those high increases that could cost the National Treasury more than GY$4 billion for the teachers alone or GY$10 billion if the wider public sector gets most of those proposed increases.

Demerara Waves Online News was told that Finance Ministry officials are worried about heightened expectations of higher salaries and allowances from the new oil economy that is expected to kick in properly by March, 2020.

The Finance Ministry experts warned that if government approves the proposed increases, the country could experience high inflation that could wipe out the real value of the increases due to skyrocketing prices for goods and services.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has already urged government to manage its spending and keep single digit inflation in check.

The Task Force was established after President Granger intervened last November to avert a threatened strike by the GTU.

The coalition government campaigned on, among other promises, to increase the salaries of teachers and police, based on its priorities of improving the quality of education and security.