An approach with the interest of teachers in mind was required of the Guyana Teachers Union [GTU] when it engaged discussions at the level of a Task Force established to fast-track the salary negotiations of teachers.
This disclosure was yesterday made by GTU General Secretary, Ms. Coretta McDonald, during an interview. According to McDonald, “at first when we sat there, we were two sides, we were two separate entities but after the first week we recognised that education is everybody’s business and we could no longer see ourselves as two sides with one fighting for this and the other fighting for something else.”
She said, “In order to boost our education system and to shout about an educated nation, we have to ensure that the persons who are facilitating the process that they are first comfortable and when they are comfortable then we can make demands of them.”
Moreover, McDonald said that the GTU recognised from the inception of the negotiations that only if those involved in the process were motivated to work that the desired outcome could be forthcoming.
This approach, McDonald said, saw the two sides becoming a single negotiating team with teachers’ interest as the focus. “We were able to look at the possibilities – long, medium and short term, with regards, especially to finances,” McDonald related.
This was particularly important, the GTU General Secretary said, to ensure that the negotiations did not take a direction whereby “the government can do this, or we demand that the government should do this when we didn’t know for sure that they would be sustainable for one or two years.”
McDonald disclosed that after taking into consideration a proposal that GTU would have submitted, as well as the preliminary report from a Commission of Inquiry [COI] into the education system, draft recommendations were presented to the Task Force.
“Of course those recommendations are going to be based on salaries, benefits and how we can improve the education system generally,” McDonald asserted yesterday.
The decision made, at the level of the Task Force, was that once the recommendations were accepted at the level of the Minister of Education, these would then be passed on to Cabinet for its approval.
“At the end of that process, and I’m not sure how long that process will take in terms of how long Cabinet will take to respond to what is presented to them, but coming out of Cabinet’s decision, we will have the signing of the new multi-year agreement,” said McDonald.
According to her, too, teachers might be concerned that a new multi-year agreement to fast-track a pay hike specific to public school teachers, “just the same way the union is concerned.”
McDonald said, “We did not want to sit there and hurry through something because we wanted something to happen fast. We sat there and we went through the process and we are still going through this process just to ensure that what we put in there is going to be sustainable.”
“We didn’t want to agree to figures and all kinds of other benefits when we were fully aware that we would not have been able to get them.”
The GTU has been able to negotiate for two sets of multi-year agreements in the past but according to McDonald “we would have had quite a number of those conditions being unfulfilled.”
She stressed the need for keen attention in this instance.
In its proposal, the union has 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.
This publication, however, has not been able to ascertain whether the proposed percentage will be afforded the teachers. There were reports that suggested that the union, during the negotiation, was required to justify the percentage outlined in its proposal.
The negotiation up to its final stage was chaired by Permanent Secretary of the Education Ministry, Mr. Vibert Welch.
Although the former Chief Education Officer [ag], Ms. Genevieve Whyte-Nedd was appointed to head the Task Force when it was set up last year, this publication understands that after failing to turn up for an initial meeting she hadn’t returned to chair further meetings.
Other members of the Task Force include Mr. Marcel Hutson, Chief Education Officer, Ministry of Education; Ms. Adele Clarke, Permanent Secretary (ag), Ministry of Education; Ms. Jacqueline Simon, Human Resources Manager, Ministry of Education; Ms. Kelly-Ann Hercules, Legal Officer, Ministry of Education; Mr. Frederick McWilfred, Political Advisor, Ministry of the Presidency ; Ms. Gail Williams, Senior Personnel Officer, Ministry of the Presidency Department of Public Service; Dr. Hector Butts, Finance Secretary, Ministry of Finance; Mr. Emil McGarrell, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Communities; Mr. Mark Lyte, GTU President; Ms. Coretta McDonald A.A., GTU General Secretary; Ms Samantha Alleyne, GTU Treasurer and Mr. Lancelot Baptiste A.A., GTU Administrative Secretary.
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