– Ministerial team to help resolve situation
Government is in receipt of an explanation from Regional Executive Officer [REO] of Region Five, Mr. Ovid Morrison, regarding a decision to withhold the salaries of teachers. Teachers of Region Five earlier this week raised
concerns about a decision by the REO to withhold as much as three months’ salary for those who are desirous of travelling overseas during the July-August school holiday.
Teachers of the union, in retaliation to the situation, on Thursday staged a picketing exercise outside the Regional Administration’s compound.
In responding to questions yesterday, Harmon said that he received a text message from General Secretary of the Guyana Teachers’ Union [GTU], Ms. Coretta McDonald, asking about the matter. He continued by adding, “What I can say is this, the Regional Executive Officer when he appeared before the Public Accounts Committee [PAC] was faced with a situation where the Public Accounts Committee asked for the Region to give an explanation for over expenditure of about $80m in this respect. That is, in respect to the payment of teachers.”
According to Harmon, the REO in his statement said that after the PAC encounter, he returned to the Region, and when the matter was further examined it was found that there was a method that could be implemented to address the situation.
“He got back and looked at the matter and recognized that there was some regulation which allowed for teachers who had applied to travel overseas on leave, that either they lodge one month salary or one month salary that is due to them will be held until they return,” Harmon asserted.
But in addition to insisting that there was no move to hold three months’ salary but rather one month, Morrison had explained to this publication that the Region was simply seeking to safeguard itself against a future overpayment situation.
According to Morrison, several teachers have in the past received their salaries while overseas, and some of them failed to return. In order to counter this challenge, Morrison said that an informed decision was taken to enforce the existing public service rule of holding one month salary.
“If you return you will have your salary,” he advised.
But some teachers have claimed that while they hadn’t received a memo about the withholding of three months’ salary, they were informed of this development at a regional education meeting. They had, moreover, taken their concerns to their union – the Guyana Teachers’ Union [GTU].
GTU President, Mr. Mark Lyte, who was on the picket line with the affected Region Five teachers on Thursday, said that he had written to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Communities, since the Communities Ministry has responsibility for regional spending.
Lyte noted that the fact that teachers of no other region were complaining about a multiple month withholding of their salaries, suggests that there was something amiss with the decision of the REO. In fact, Lyte had intimated to this publication that such a situation could warrant legal action if it wasn’t resolved.
When this publication made contact with officials of both the Ministry of Communities and Education on Wednesday, they had insisted that the teachers had not yet ventilated their concerns at that level.
But according to Harmon, who learnt of the teachers’ retaliation yesterday morning, he sought to make contact with the Minister within the Ministry of Education, Ms. Nicolette Henry, and the Minister of Communities, Mr. Ronald Bulkan. Harmon also informed yesterday that a team was scheduled to travel to Region Five to bring a resolution to the matter.
“So what I can say is that I believed at the end of today [Friday] the matter will be resolved,” Harmon related.
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