They can’t even give an increase for clothing allowance…they want to give duty free concession, but if the teachers don’t have the money, how are they going to take advantage of that. If you can’t give teachers an increase for their improved qualifications, then you are not caring…” – GTU President Mark Lyte
“Even before we were born, those before us set up institutions and instruments by which we are guided, so they knew that when things happen, you had to have something in place…they made those provisions, so when the need arises we have to activate them. That can’t change, that’s life.” – Minister of Education Nicolette Henry
Despite continued talks with Government yesterday, public school teachers will from August 27 engage planned strike action. This is in light of the fact that government has not expressed its willingness to revise its offer for a multi-year salary package for teachers.
According to President of the Guyana Teachers’ Union [GTU], Mr. Mark Lyte, government’s action has clearly suggested that it is uncaring and is not willing to meet the needs of teachers. Lyte revealed that while the government has agreed to some non-salary aspects of its proposal, it has remained unyielding to the financial aspects.
“When it comes to salary increases, de-bunching, clothing allowances they are not prepared to budge…they are not prepared to increase anything based on what they offered us before,” said Lyte
Last week Thursday following an initial meeting to hear government’s response to its proposal, government said that it was only committed to paying teachers a $7 million one-off pay out and once agreed upon a specialist will be contracted to determine a suitable percentage increase.
The union had proposed, among other things, 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.
The meeting yesterday which was again spearhead by Minister of Education, Ms. Nicolette Henry, is the second one within recent days in hopes of arriving at an amicable resolution.
Even Minister of State Joseph Harmon, at yesterday post-Cabinet press briefing, had assured that government has every intention of offering teachers a better package.
But following the meeting yesterday, Lyte and the GTU membership were not convinced that this was the case.
“They can’t even give an increase for clothing allowance…they want to give duty free concession, but if the teachers don’t have the money, how are they going to take advantage of that. If you can’t give teachers an increase for their improved qualifications, then you are not caring…” complained Lyte.
He continued, “Basically we are very disappointed because we went to another meeting for nearly three hours and the outcome on financial matters are basically the same, and we believe financial matters are the most important”.
But yesterday the Minister of Education sought to emphasise that government has been plugging a vast amount of funds into improving the education sector.
“We have been providing more than salaries…it is about working conditions, it is about employment, it is ensuring that people have the support and the capacity, and government is financing all of those things to make the environment more conducive for teachers to teach and for students to learn,” Minister Henry asserted yesterday.
In outlining the extent of government’s interest in education, the Minister highlighted too that President David Granger has ensured that grants are given to secondary schools with science laboratories, even as government has increased the remote area incentive for teachers. Immense government funds, she added, has also gone towards the implementation of meals programmes even for non-resident students at the Cyril Potter College of Education.
“This has been done at great cost to the government,” said Minister Henry, as she alluded to monies that have also been directed to providing support, training and building of capacity for teachers.
“We have been developing them and making them even more marketable, and all those other things, and that is at a cost to the government,” said Minister Henry, who told media operatives yesterday that notwithstanding the absence of a multi-year agreement “we have given them [teachers] increases for 2016 and 2017 [along with other public servants].”
However, when asked to comment on the deduction of the GTU membership that government is uncaring towards public school teachers, Minister Henry said, “my interpretation of language may be a little different from others, but I believe that you never have a correct or incorrect opinion.”
“They [GTU] may have an opinion but in my opinion I don’t think that is the case…” said the Education Minister.
When asked if government is prepared to deal with the planned strike action, Minister Henry said that while such a development is of concern, to every challenge there is always a contingency plan.
“Even before we were born, those before us set up institutions and instruments by which we are guided, so they knew that when things happen, you had to have something in place…they made those provisions, so when the need arises we have to activate them. That can’t change, that’s life,” added the Minister.
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