– still peeved at operations of Teaching Service Commission
The long proposed housing revolving fund for public school teachers is yet to materialise.
The Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) is however desperately advocating for it to become a reality.
This was one of the issues brought to the attention of Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, when executive members of the Union met with him last week.
GTU General Secretary, Coretta McDonald, yesterday said that the Union last week met with the Minister at the Ministry of the Presidency to discuss a number of issues on behalf of the teachers it represents. In addition to the revolving fund, the issues of the payment of debunching monies and duty free concessions were discussed.
These issues, which were incorporated in a multi-year agreement between the Union and the Ministry of Education under the previous regime, are of concern to the Union since they were not honoured. The agreement came to an end last December.
Speaking of the duty free concession, McDonald said, “Within that agreement we would have had about 148 head teachers and deputy head teachers who had not received approval for their concessions. We had to get that sorted out with Mr. Harmon because he is the person responsible for approving duty free concessions.”
The outcome of the meeting was favourable, McDonald reported. She however said that Harmon noted that there isn’t much that Government can do to fast track the implementation of the revolving fund project.
McDonald in explaining the project, yesterday, said that it is one that saw monies being collected each year from Government in order to disperse to 20 teachers, $2 million each, annually. This would have amounted to $40 million being dispersed per year and was intended to serve as a form of assistance to teachers to build their own homes.
The GTU President lamented yesterday that “this project is not yet off of the ground. We have not been able to get a financial agency, one of the commercial banks, to carry through with it for us.”
This is due to the fact, McDonald said, that attempts were made to ask teachers to pay interest on the $2 million offered. “We are saying that we cannot accept that because rather than our teachers taking $2 million and having to pay interest as if they were taking $10 million we might as well send them to take a $10 million loan…” McDonald pointed out.
“On that issue Minister Harmon said he couldn’t decide which agency we should use. He said what we should do is try to seek out other agencies to see if they are willing to take the project on,” said McDonald who disclosed that the Union was anticipating the support of the Ministry of Finance.
But according to Harmon, McDonald said, “The Ministry of Finance is having its own issues so it couldn’t take on the project. As it is right now the money is in the bank and we are just waiting for an agency which will be willing to roll out this project.”
The Union is however hopeful that it could eventually solicit the involvement of Coop Societies to help bring the project to fruition.
Since assuming the presidency last year, the Union had met with President Granger to share some of its concerns including the aforementioned. But according to McDonald yesterday the Union is concerned that Government is not moving fast enough in the interest of public school teachers.
Among the concerns of the Union, too, is that of the operations of the Teaching Service Commission (TSC). This publication reported earlier this week that the Union had called off its protest against the TSC but McDonald informed yesterday, “We have put a temporary hold on a threatened nationwide strike but the protest action against the Teaching Service Commission will continue.”
McDonald yesterday led a protest action outside the office of the Brickdam, Georgetown Commission during which the integrity of the Commission was called into question.
This will make the fifth protest exercise conducted outside of the TSC in recent weeks. The Union had last year secured an injunction to prevent the TSC from going ahead with its 2015 teachers’ promotion until a review of the process was done.
The injunction also prevented the promotions by the Schools Board Secretariat. While the Schools Board Secretariat conceded to the review, the TSC didn’t, as such the matter has to be resolved in the high court. It is likely that a ruling on the matter could be handed down when the matter is heard later this month.
Despite the injunction the TSC had gone ahead and promoted a teacher which enraged the GTU and prompted the start of protest action which has seen GTU members calling for the replacement of the Leila Ramson-led Commission.
Ms. Ramson had however noted that the promotion that bothered the Union was in fact an error which was eventually corrected and an apology was issued to the Union.
But while the Union is hopeful that the court will rule in its favour, McDonald yesterday mused over the fact that the court matter could possibly continue for years thereby prolonging the already stalled promotion process.
“If that matter takes two years to be completed then what happens? For two years no promotions will be done and we are saying to avoid all of that we are asking the President to revisit the concerns we shared with him to either dissolve the Commission or have the Commission straighten-up and do what is mandated of it,” asserted McDonald yesterday.
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