“They have caused us to reach to this place, so our teachers are demanding nothing less than a 40 percent salary increase,” said President of the Guyana Teachers’ Union [GTU], Mr. Mark Lyte.
His disclosure came as he along with a few teachers gathered on the lawns of the 26 Brickdam, Georgetown office of the Ministry of Education yesterday to signal the start of nation-wide strike action.
According to Lyte, although the union had previously negotiated in good faith and was prepared to accept a lower percentage, this will no longer be the case because of the course of action the union was forced to take.
“In the past we have tried to negotiate, and people brought ball figures and not percentage, so right now teachers are demanding on their 2016 salary 40 percent and they will move to nothing else since we have to go through this [strike],” Lyte asserted.
At the end of 2015, a multi-year salary package between the union and the previous government came to an end which saw the union crafting and submitting to the Education Ministry a new proposal intended to span the period 2016 – 2020.
Entailed in the proposal were, 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.
But Lyte had noted that since the union’s proposal was merely a suggestion, it was even prepared to accept a lower but reasonable percentage increase for its membership.
However, given the failed talks between government and the union regarding a decent package for teachers, Lyte said that the union only sees industrial action as the means to emphasise its disappointment.
“Strike action will go on as planned unless the administration speaks to the demands of the union,” the GTU President insisted yesterday.
While he could not attest to the numbers that have decided to strike, Lyte said that the union was able to confirm that the action was supported by teachers across the country.
“We had a presence in all of the education districts,” said Lyte, shortly before those gathered at the Ministry’s Brickdam office headed over to the Ministry of the Presidency in protest.
“We hope to signal to the powers that be that this is an action that has commenced and we will have to get our demands met…they have to address the demands of the teachers represented by the GTU, and I think everyone is aware of what our demand is,” Lyte stressed.
The union with the guidance of its membership decided to commence two weeks of strike action starting yesterday which will continue until into next week, the first week of school. The strike is expected to see teachers staying away from schools across the nation.
According to Lyte, some form of industrial action is likely to continue after the two-week strike until a favourable resolution is realised.
In hopes of halting the strike action, the Ministry of Education had written to the Ministry of Social Protection requesting that its Department of Labour exercises its power of conciliation.
In this regard, the Labour Department last week, by way of letter, invited the union to a conciliation meeting which the union did not attend. The Labour Department has since rescheduled the meeting for today [August 28, 2018].
“By law the Education Ministry has a right to write to Labour for them to bring us to the table for conciliation, but what we recognise is that first of all we got a very late notice on Friday for the meeting and we had a planned agenda to be out in Berbice on that day,” Lyte explained.
He said, “Subsequently we received another invitation for tomorrow (today) when we have General Council planned and the next day we have our Executive Council (ExCo) meeting.
No one has taken into consideration what the schedule of the union is, but we are being invited to meetings…We can’t just drop guard, because our ExCo meeting is three times per year and teachers have already travelled out of interior locations for that, so the invitation for tomorrow [today] will have to be rescheduled.”
According to Lyte, a sincere move to reach out to the union should have seen moves being made to enquire of the union in the first place, a time that is convenient to meet.
“Rather, they are inviting us to meetings without consulting us,” said Lyte as he asserted, “We are committed to abiding to the laws of the land, and therefore if it is demanded of the Ministry of Social Protection to bring us to conciliation again, we are prepared to abide by that, but it cannot come at a time when it impedes on our already planned schedule.”
He continued, “We are professionals and we believe that we are dealing with professionals, so we can’t have people moving at their whims and fancies.”
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