Public school teachers are owed debunching money amounting to a sum bordering on $600 million. But according to General Secretary of the Guyana Teachers [GTU], Ms. Coretta McDonald, “We don’t think government has the capacity to pay that amount of money that is owed and then to pay salary increases again on that.”
This matter is one that has gained the attention of the Task Force that was entrusted with spearheading the negotiations as it relates to salary increase for public school teachers. According to McDonald, who has been a part of that body, “we sat there and we came up with a position that we are offering the government with regards to the debunching issue. If that position is accepted, those monies are going to be placed on the table then we can have the new increases that we have been pushing for.”
It is McDonald’s belief that once the debunching increases are paid to teachers “that would put everything else into place, because we would have the debunching in place which will show you the different segments and the different levels of teachers according to the different increment of teachers.”
“When you have the increases in salaries, you are going to see that reflected in the salary scale so you won’t have a whole lot of people bunched up at one point and you have just a few at another point,” said McDonald. “Because of all of those intricacies, it took us quite a while of the entire process [negotiation] being completed.”
But according to the GTU General Secretary, the union is satisfied with the course the negotiation has taken. She, however, noted that teachers may have to wait a bit longer since “like everything else, negotiation doesn’t happen in one day, a week, a month and so on…unless persons say ‘oh you want to shut people up? Let’s sign an agreement although we know we didn’t do three quarters of the things that we are asking for’”
According to McDonald, the GTU has been fully engaged in negotiations since it has long recognised that industrial action is not necessarily always to resolve some issues. “We need to be realistic and we need to look further down the line; we don’t want things to work out for our teachers only for a year or two,” she asserted.
Debunching, as well as the teachers’ house lot project, has been among the issues that the GTU has had issues resolving even though it was included in an agreement the GTU had signed with the previous administration.
“We were never able to address those issues. Now those issues are coming right back into this new agreement but I can say, unless we address the debunching matter in particular, we will not be able to resolve all of the issues that we are having with the salaries,” said McDonald.
Addressing this issue is particularly important, McDonald said, since “every year we have more teachers in the system and they are being added to the table. In order to show that bit of what we call seniority, we must devise an incentive or increment system where a teacher getting out of College [Cyril Potter College of Education] now, will not be receiving the same salary as teachers in the system a year or two years ago.”
According to McDonald, unless deliberate moves are made to address the debunching issue there is no way that it will be reflected on the salary scales.
“That has taken us a while in terms of putting all the persons we have in the education system; putting them in the various levels and doing the various calculations to show how much is going to be the increase because that there is separate and apart.”
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