May 13, 2015 News
Even as the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) continues its work-to-rule industrial action, its President, Mark Lyte, is optimistic that this action will not continue for too much longer. In fact he told this publication yesterday that “the Union is hoping to soon have talks with the new government to determine the way forward.”
While Monday was Election Day, as of yesterday, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) was not able to declare a winner.
However Lyte has assured that while the industrial action is not one targeting any particular party, it is one that will continue, regardless of which party is sworn into office. He has therefore made it clear that work-to-rule will continue until teachers are paid their debunching money which was promised to them based on an agreement the GTU had signed with the past Government.
According to Lyte, the debunching payment is one that has been included in a multi-year agreement package for teachers along with salary increases, land for teachers, among other benefits. The most recent multi-year agreement will come to an end this year end.
And according to the GTU President, while some of the commitments in the package have not be fulfilled, among the most pressing is that of the debunching payout, which is designed to benefit all teachers.
The debunching payment is intended to cater to the salaries of teachers, whereby those with the same status will be paid based on their years of experience. This, for example, would ensure that a senior teacher who was trained 10 years ago will not be placed on the same salary scale as a senior master/mistress that was subsequently trained.
Because of Government’s disclosure, through Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, that no money was budgeted for the debunching payment, Lyte said that a decision was made to commence the industrial action.
The industrial action, which commenced last week Monday, is one that saw teachers from 70 per cent of the public schools across the country participating, according to the GTU President. And he is confident that there is likely to be an increase in the participation this week.
Speaking of the past week of industrial action, Lyte said that “the first week went well in my view. I believe the message was clearly sent to the Ministry of Education.”
Since the start of the industrial action, Lyte said that although it had informed the Ministry of Education of its plans, no feedback had been forthcoming to date. This, according to him, suggests that “the Ministry of Education sees teachers as unimportant.”
He is adamant that the industrial action could have been avoided.
“All of this could have been nullified, however if the Ministry of Education had sat with us and talked this out, but they have not done so,” Lyte reflected.
Work-to-rule is characterised by teachers doing their assigned task and no more, and possibly even returning home if their working environment is not conducive enough. But according to Lyte, the Union hadn’t any reports of teachers returning home because of their dissatisfaction with their working facilities. He however asserted that teachers embracing the industrial action are not doing any extra duties.
Currently the GTU has some 7,000 teachers within its membership which translates to more than two-thirds of the nation’s public school teachers. Moreover, Lyte had told this publication that industrial action of any form could have significant impact on the education system.
The system is preparing to conduct the National Grade Two, Four and Nine Assessments and has commenced facilitating the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE).
Moreover Lyte underscored that the ongoing industrial action could have serious implications.
“We can do a sit-in, or a full-blown strike for about a week, but we want to start by alerting the administration (Government) that we will not sit back and be ignored. We are sending a message to them via this action that if they don’t get their act together, we can take other forms of industrial action,” warned the GTU President, even as he pointed out that the possibility exist that the Union could intensify its action until teachers are paid.
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