…as GTU calls on membership to join “justified” strike action
In order to ensure that there is no confusion about plans to engage strike action the week before school resumes, President of the Guyana Teachers’ Union [GTU], Mr. Mark Lyte, has called on head teachers to hand over school keys to the respective regions.
In a letter disseminated on social media, Lyte said, “head teachers must take school keys to the respective Education Departments from Friday August 24, 2018.” He also urged the union’s 7000-odd membership to pay no heed to detractors.
“Do not listen to threats which will come from high offices. You have a right to strike as an employee,” said Lyte, who has also encouraged teachers to follow closely releases from Executives of the Union, as it moves forward with its retaliation against government over a breakdown in salary negotiations.
“Teachers throughout the length and breadth of Guyana are asked to support this justified action taken by your Union to ensure that an agreement is reached between the Ministry of Education and the Guyana Teachers’ Union,” Lyte told the membership in his letter.
Although a move by the GTU to engage strike action was demanded of a faction of its membership last week following failed talks with the government representatives, Lyte has disclosed that the decision, which is expected to gravely impact public schools across the country, has been fully endorsed by the union’s General Council.
“The Union views the counter-proposal tabled by the Ministry of Education as an insult to the integrity of all teachers in Guyana. We believe that enough patience was exhibited by the Union to allow the Ministry to arrive at a satisfactory proposal,” the letter by Lyte added.
As such, he assured that “This decision is supported not only by General Council, but our private opinion poll among teachers and civic minded persons across Guyana indicate that teachers nationwide have full support of this action.”
Strike action is set to commence on August 27 and is expected to span a period of two weeks initially. Lyte had told this publication that while strike action will be held during the pre-term activities [the last week of August] and the first week of the new school year [the first week of September], the way forward will be dependent on the feedback the union gets from government.
As the strike action looms, Lyte said the GTU is calling on all teachers to join in what has been described as “justified action” since the rights of teachers are being infringed upon by government – their employer.
Teachers were upbeat when they first learnt that government would have conveyed its response to the recommendations of a government-appointed high level committee, which was established to negotiate a multi-year salary package for teachers, through the Minister of Education.
But when the leadership of the union met with Minister of Education, Ms. Nicolette Henry, and other government officials last week, it was made clear that government was not prepared to honour the majority of the recommendations proposed by the GTU through a committee for teachers.
Instead of attempting to slash the percent increase being sought for teachers by the union, the government has offered a $700 million one-off payout to teachers. This amount, according to Lyte, would only cover the proposed pay increase for teachers for 2018.
Added to this, government in its counter-proposal has offered to bring on board a ‘specialist’ to help negotiate a suitable percentage salary increase for teachers.
Since the expiration of a multi-year agreement at the end of 2015 which the union had inked with the previous administration, moves were made to submit a proposal to the APNU-AFC government detailing salary and non-salary benefits for teachers. In relation to the salary proposal, the union had asked for a 40 percent across the board increase for teachers for 2016; 45 percent increase for last year and 50 percent for this year and the following two years (2019-2020) for all categories of teachers.
According to Lyte, teachers are disappointed by treatment meted out by government, which has seen the majority of the recommendations for salary and non-salary benefits for teachers being rejected, including a proposal for clothing allowance.
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