-as GTU, Education Ministry agree to arbitration for multi-year salary package
-no victimisation; full pay for protestors
With no victimisation, including full pay, for teachers, the Guyana Teachers Union [GTU] was yesterday able to ink a Memorandum of Agreement with the Ministry of Education before Chief Labour Officer, Mr. Charles Ogle.
The move in this direction came after a near four-hour long meeting at the Brickdam, Georgetown Social Protection Ministry facilitated by its Labour Department which saw the two sides agreeing to arbitration, a process that was long demanded by the union. Arbitration became inevitable after multiple attempts at conciliation failed.
Signing the agreement on the Education Ministry’s side was Chief Education Officer, Mr. Marcel Hutson, and Permanent Secretary, Ms. Adele Clarke, while GTU President, Mark Lyte and General Secretary, Ms. Coretta McDonald signed for the union.
After the signing of the agreement, Lyte, accompanied by his First Vice President, Ms. Lesmeine Collins; General Secretary McDonald, and other members of the union’s executive walked out of the Social Protection Ministry where several teachers were eagerly waiting to hear the verdict. As the union executives strutted out of the Ministry’s compound, with heads held high, the gathering of waiting teachers burst into singing of their solidarity song, already confident that they had endured the struggle and emerged the victors.
Shortly before addressing his membership yesterday, a smiling Lyte, speaking to media operatives, said, “Today is a good day for the union…from day one we insisted that this matter should go to arbitration and we have achieved that today much to the pleasure of our members because we did not feel that this process would have served us well.”
Lyte disclosed that the meeting saw the parties involved agreeing to the Terms of Resumption which will essentially ensure that teachers return to work with full pay, or are not victimised in any way. “There will be no loss of pay, no victimisation, no loss of seniority,” said Lyte who went on to note that while teachers can resume as early as tomorrow, the parties, by signing the agreement, agreed to full resumption on Monday.
Although the parties have not yet agreed to the timeline for arbitration, Lyte said yesterday that this will be determined at a later date. “We will be meeting to look at the Terms of Reference for the arbitration panel and that will be discussed on Tuesday,” said Lyte who also informed media operatives that the impending negotiation process will be for a multi-year salary agreement.
This is in spite of claims by President David Granger last week that the government was not in a position to negotiate for a multi-year package. The President at a press conference said, “I think it is desirable…[but] right now people are pre-occupied with almost day to day issues. I personally believe a multi-year agreement is desirable to have, but this is not the time now.”
The President had however noted at that very press conference that his government was looking for fresh sources of funding in order to meet the salary needs of teachers.
The GTU since 2015, had submitted to the APNU-AFC government a proposal, after its salary agreement with the previous administration expired. Among other things, the union proposed a 40 percent across the board increase for teachers for 2016 and five percent for each of the additional four years [2017-2020].
But instead of countering the union’s offer with an affordable percentage, government, even after establishing a Task Force to negotiate on its behalf which accepted the union’s proposal, decided to offer teachers a ball-park figure of $700 million salary increase for 2018 and an additional $200 million for debunching monies owed to teachers since 2011.
Rejecting the government’s offer, the union after consulting with its membership decided that it will engage strike action in retaliation.
Yesterday marked the fourth day in the second week of strike action initiated by the union after the failed talks for salary and non-salary benefits for teachers.
Although the strike action commenced during schools pre-term activities, it was only this week, the first week of the new school year, that its impact was really felt since many schools were left without teachers. This state of affairs had forced the Ministry to implement a contingency plan which saw it dispatching trainee teachers from the Cyril Potter College of Education and utilising the services of retired teaches to schools across the country.
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