… following “unfavourable” meeting with Ministry
A meeting with the Ministry of Education ended on a sour note, yesterday. The Guyana Teachers Union [GTU] has announced that it will engage an initial bout of strike action next week.
Strike action, according to GTU President Mark Lyte, will be held on Thursday and Friday. “That communiqué will be passed out to the teachers,” the GTU President informed.
Yesterday’s meeting, according to him, was convened at the behest of the Ministry of Education.
He revealed that following reports of plans by the GTU to agitate public school teachers to strike [since the Ministry has failed to complete negotiations for a multi-year remuneration package, among other pressing issues,] a request was made by the Ministry’s public relations officials for the union to meet with Ministry officials to resolve all concerns.
But the meeting came to a rapid end yesterday. According to reports minutes after it started the meeting ended with union members walking out firm in their belief that the union’s concerns, primarily those of a financial nature, were not being immediately addressed.
Lyte intimated that the first ‘turn off’ for the union was when chairperson of the meeting, Minister Nicolette Henry, in her opening remarks, suggested that the meeting was being held because it was requested by the GTU.
Lyte, however reiterated that “the Ministry’s PR individuals came till to the [Woolford Avenue] office of the union and requested the meeting for us to resolve this matter. We attended in good faith only to hear that the Minister seemingly was unprepared for the meeting.”
Those representing the Ministry yesterday were Minister Henry; Chief Education Officer, Marcel Hutson and other senior education officials. On the Union side were Lyte, General Secretary, Coretta McDonald; Field Officer; Lancelot Baptiste A.A., among others.
Speaking from the lawns of the 26 Brickdam, Georgetown Ministry of Education office where the union members congregated after the ‘walk-out’, Lyte said that from all indication, “the Minister was unprepared to deal with the most important issue that we had on the agenda which had to do with the financial matters on the proposal.”
Lyte was at the time referring to the unions multi-year proposal which was submitted to the Ministry since December 2015 when a previous multi-year agreement came to an end. There were several sessions of negotiations which started in 2016 but to date the Ministry has not signed off on the entire proposal.
“We had gone past the non-financial matters and those were sorted out with the former Permanent Secretary, Ms. Delma Nedd, but the financial matter seems to be the issue for them,” Lyte underscored.
In its proposal, the union asked for, among other things, a 40 percent across the board increase for teachers for last year; 45 percent increase for this year and 50 percent for the following three years (2018-2020) for all categories of teachers.
The union in its proposal, too, took 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.”
But Lyte had confided that since the union was only making a proposal, the Ministry was well within its right to offer completely different percentages.
Coming out from yesterday’s meeting, Lyte said that the Minister merely advised the union that teachers will benefit from the recently announced pay increase as other public servants. “This seems to be another imposition and the union will not accept this,” said Lyte.
Mirroring Lyte’s comments yesterday was McDonald who observed that the Education Minister’s disclosure had in fact contradicted statements made by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon.
“We saw in a newspaper article the Minister of State is quoted as stating GTU’s proposal is separate and apart from the GPSU because we have a multi-year agreement and our business is going to be dealt with later on,” McDonald emphasised.
“We said will give the Minister up to Thursday to decide on something,” said McDonald.
Vocalising her concern about the stance taken by the union, Henry said, “I have to say, for me it was quite sobering to see persons who have a responsibility to advocate and represent persons under their charge and they missed an opportunity to do that.”
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