Striking GTI lecturers, Education Minister strike temporary deal
…will return to work on Monday
The part time staffers at the Government Technical Institute (GTI) will return to work on Monday based on assurances by the Education Minister, Shaik Baksh, that there will be an increase in their salaries.
Speaking with one of the lecturers last evening, it was related that whilst there has been a steady back and forth over the past couple of days to seek a resolution to the situation they will give the Minister the benefit of the doubt and return to work despite the fact that he did not give a figure.
According to the lecturer, the Minister has assured the staffers that by this month end he will have a figure for them. It was agreed to take the Minister at his word but should he fall through they will revert to industrial action again on March 1, the lecturers said.
The lecturers expressed their appreciation for the Chairman of the Board of Governors, Major General (ret’d) Norman McLean, who had written to Minister of Education, Shaik Baksh, pointing out that the increases were needed in order to keep the staff on board.
The part-time staff caters for evening classes offered by the institute. The last increase in salaries was given nine years ago.
The staff association wrote the Board of Governors one year ago calling for an increase.
Delphine Bakker, President of the Staff Association, said that 61 of the 64 part-time workers are on strike.
At that time she had said that following a meeting between the staff association and the Board, they were awaiting word from the Minister of Education Shaik Baksh on whether the increases will be forthcoming.
The staff and the board met with the Minister on September 28 last year, and were told that they would have an answer by the end of October. However, nothing happened.
On January 7, last, McLean again met with the staff and promised a follow-up, but they failed to get a word.
McLean, in his letter to the Minister of Education, pointed out that the Institute faced difficulties to recruit and retain some key personnel at the Institute and submitted the Board’s recommendation for an increase on hourly pay at the Institute. This increase amounted to almost double the current rate.
For non-graduate lecturers, the present hourly rate is $500, with the recommended increase being $1,000. For part-time workers who earn $800, Bakker said that when tax and other deductions are made, the workers take home just $3,445 a week.
Over the past two years, the GTI has been experiencing serious problems with the recruiting and the retaining of part-time staff. Several applicants for the vacant positions of technicians, clerks, librarians and labourers have refused to take up employment once they know what the salary is.
McLean pointed out to the Education Minister that those who choose to be employed quit shortly after for better pay elsewhere.
As a result, certain subjects are no longer being taught due to the severe lack of competent teaching personnel. Junior technicians who are unqualified and lack the adequate teaching skills currently conduct some classes.
McLean said the recommended rates of increase are in keeping with the current salaries paid to the various categories of staff, taking into consideration the increments on salaries given to full-time employees since 2000 when the part-time was last reviewed.
The Board made the recommendation to the Minister with the hope that it would have been approved for the new academic year, which started in September, 2009.