May 26, 2017 News
“We are frustrated, our members are frustrated too,” said President of the Guyana Teachers Union [GTU], Mr. Mark Lyte, of the stalled negotiations between the union and the Ministry of Education. After more than a year, the two parties have been unable to sign an agreement for a remuneration package for public school teachers.
A former agreement between the union and the Ministry expired at the end of 2015 and an alternative proposal was sent to the Ministry for its consideration. The negotiation process commenced, though irregularly, but it was the expectation of the union that it would have already been completed.
In fact, Lyte informed that the matter came to a complete standstill when Government took a decision earlier this year to reshuffle several Permanent Secretaries [PSs]. This move resulted in the re-assignment of Ms. Delma Nedd [former Education Ministry PS] to the Ministry of Legal Affairs. The Education Ministry now has Mr. Vibert Welch [former PS of Amerindians Affairs] in Nedd’s stead.
But according to Lyte, his suspicion is that there was no briefing between the Permanent Secretaries as it relates to the sessions of the negotiation that were already completed.
“Even if the PS is new, there should be continuation of information…we found that there was no information passed on to him,” said Lyte as he disclosed that the situation that obtains is that the negotiation process will have to restart from scratch.
He disclosed that the new PS had met with the union about one month ago with limited knowledge about the negotiation process and had agreed to meet again about two or three weeks later. The two sides have not met since but, according to Lyte, during the inaugural meet with PS Welch, “he was not negative at all…in fact I think he really understood the plight of our teachers and wanted to do something about it.”
But the delay in the process has been very disconcerting for teachers, Lyte intimated. “Teachers are very disturbed about the whole situation,” said Lyte, as he added “We at the union have been trying to calm them and let them know that we are working on their behalf, but I think the general perception of our frustrated teachers is that that the administration is not acting like it cares about teachers. Imagine to date the Ministry cannot come up with even an alternative proposal that is feasible [if they say they cannot work with ours] so that teachers can receive their increase concessions and so on.”
He continued by underscoring “rather than just saying in public that teachers should get better pay, the Minister of Education and other senior education officials should start putting their talk into action…this is what teachers want to see the administration do.”
According to Lyte, after more than a year, the union is very worried that “absolutely nothing from its proposal has been approved and it is as if the process is now about to begin again; this cannot be fair to our teachers…”
The union had furnished the Ministry with a proposed agreement which, among other things, suggested a 40 percent across the board increase for teachers for last year.
Also detailed in its proposal was a 45 percent increase for this year (2017) and 50 percent for the following three years (2018-2020) for all categories of teachers.
In its proposal too, the Union had taken into consideration inflation, and had made it clear that “should there be inflation higher than the percentage agreed upon, then the teachers/teacher-educators must get the benefit of the difference.”
However, the Ministry had last year offered what was believed to be an arbitrary salary increase. But according to Lyte, the Ministry was able to explain away its decision to arbitrarily give teachers pay increases of 10 and six per cent which were payable at the end of October last.
Lyte revealed that since the Union had not agreed to the percentages given, the Ministry had assured that the amount paid merely represented an interim payment, pending the outcome of the negotiation.
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