Although the Guyana Teachers’ Union [GTU] sees President David Granger’s remarks that government is looking to augment its initial offer to teachers as a “glimmer of hope”, it is yet disappointed that government’s focus continues to be on a single year .
At a press conference Friday, the Head of State said that his government is working towards meeting the salary demands of teachers and is therefore looking at fresh sources of funding to do this.
“We are a little hopeful…that efforts are being made to find money to make an offer that is a glimmer of hope that we have, and we hope that when that money is found that they will engage us from the 2016 period so that we can move forward,” Lyte shared. He is however fearful that by focusing on a single year, government is on a mission to disregard the other years that the union has proposed salary increases for.
“The union is still anticipating a multi-year agreement…you see the ploy is if we start from 2018 they will disregard the earlier years and this has
implications for the debunching monies as well… It is a deliberate attempt to shy away from that responsibility of paying the previously agreed position,” said Lyte.
In its salary proposal for public school teachers, which was submitted to government in November 2015 when a previous agreement with the former administration ended, the union had proposed that government consider the payment of debunching monies owed to teachers since 2011. The payment of debunching monies is expected to see teachers being placed on specific salary scales based not only on their qualifications, but also their years of experience for the years negotiated for ahead of 2018 [2016 and 2017].
Moreover, teachers will be short-changed if government pays them their debunching monies and salaries are only hiked for 2018.
The union had brought to the table a proposal asking for a 40 percent increase for teachers for 2016, which was endorsed by a Task Force established by government in addition to a five percent increase for the following four years [2017-2020].
“It was always 40 percent we proposed, and it was just a proposal, and the union was always open to the option of negotiating downwards after Cabinet would have looked at it and brought a position and a percentage to the table from 2016, because what we were looking at is a higher percentage on the 2016 salary, and we subsequently accepted smaller percentages,” Lyte explained.
According to Lyte, since this position was brought to the negotiation table to which government was well represented, “we are very disappointed that the Head of State could say at his press conference that the negotiation was only for one year”.
At his press conference, President Granger said, “At this stage the immediate need is for us to conclude an agreement which would see the teachers calling off the strike and entering into long term negotiations for that multi-year agreement”.
He however admitted that government has not yet embarked on the multi- year negotiations although, “I think it is desirable and we have not had that opportunity to complete those talks as yet. Right now people are preoccupied with almost day-to-day issues. I personally believe a multi-year agreement is desirable to have, but this is not the time now.”
But the GTU President stressed, “We are extremely disappointed by such revelations, and we are taken aback by the statement, because we believe everybody on the government side and the entire Cabinet, the Task Force and everybody, were aware that the negotiations was for a multi-year agreement because that was put forward. Saying at this point that the negotiations were for just one year came as a surprise and we are utterly disappointed that it has come down to this in the long run.”
Lyte asserted too that government cannot claim that there was a deficiency of information during the process even as he pointed out, “we provided all information needed to justify what we asked for and this was included in the report of the Task Force.”
“If government was in need of additional information then that should have been requested; whatever the Task Force requested us to put forward as justification, we did supply those and they were even included in the Appendix of the report submitted to government,” Lyte added.
Given the continued state of affairs, the GTU President said that the union will continue to move forward with strike action.
“Our teachers, those in support of the strike, will not be reporting to work until an agreement is brokered,” said Lyte, as he reassured of the union’s commitment to provide strike relief to teachers on strike.
“All our teachers on strike will be given strike relief once they participate,” said Lyte, as he disclosed that the union has also written to the various institutions such as stores and financial institutions asking for them to be lenient with teachers should their salaries be cut during their strike engagement.
However, Lyte reiterated that should the government make an offer to the union that will bring an end to strike action “our terms of resumption is that teachers will not be victimised and that there be an agreement for no salary cut.”
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