A revised decision to negotiate salary increases for public school teachers for three years instead of five years was solely the decision of the Guyana Teachers Union [GTU] and not an imposition by government.
This was asserted of GTU President, Mr. Mark Lyte, who in an invited comment said that this move was deliberate since the union was concerned about whether government would have been able to find the needed funds to pay teachers retroactive pay for five years.
“We thought it was the best thing to do as we move on…We can look at a new agreement for 2019 later. We think the longer this thing goes on the more difficult it will be for Government to deal with all those retroactive payments,” said Lyte.
The union and the Education Ministry on Friday agreed to a 12 percent increase for teachers in 2016 and a further eight percent for 2018. It is expected, Lyte said, that the payment will be made in two tranches in December and January. He, however, noted that the union will have to pay keen attention to how things progress since “we have a timeline to treat with that and if that time passes nothing will happen…nobody will get anything for this year.”
Lyte noted, too, that the union is very optimistic about moving forward.
While the union and the Ministry have agreed to all financial aspects for a salary package for teachers, Lyte informed that there are a few non-financial areas that are yet to be agreed upon. “We have accepted what they have put forward except for three non-salary areas that we need clarity on,” he shared.
It is expected that the three areas will be brought to the attention of Cabinet after which a document will be completed detailing what the parties have agreed on. “Once all the ‘T’s have been crossed and the ‘I’s have been dotted then we will sign the agreement,” Lyte said. Although it is expected that the two sides will sign an agreement this week, Lyte hinted at the possibility of it taking a bit longer. “We await a call from the Ministry of Education,” the GTU President noted.
He sought to dispel rumours that some of the union’s action has been politically motivated.
“We have always maintained that this is not about politics; this is about the welfare of teachers and when we worked out what was offered we decided that our teachers will benefit significantly and we communicated that.
“We shared with our teachers what they are likely to get in December and January. That is the information we have passed on to them. The majority of our teachers, based on the feedback we got, are comfortable with the decision the union made for them because they have indicated that they trust us.
“They have trusted us from the inception,” insisted Lyte.
The majority of teachers are receptive to the package that has been accepted by the union thus far.
“In every situation you will not find everybody agreeing on everything but what we know is that the majority of our membership trusted us to agree to something that will be beneficial to them and we believe we agreed to a good deal even though we were hoping to get a little bit more for our teachers,” Lyte informed.
Lyte said, too, that in addition to heeding the calls of the majority of its members, the union recognized that the longer the union holds out, the harder it is likely to become for government to make payable retroactive payments to teachers.
“So it was with our teachers in mind that we went ahead and made a decision, collectively,” Lyte assured.
Meanwhile, Lyte in responding to calls for him to appear before the union’s General Council to answer why a lesser percentage was accepted said that he was prepared to do so since the only influence in accepting Government’s offer was the union’s membership.
Lyte shared that while the union’s constitution allows for even a single member to question decisions taken by the executive of the union that single member, also based on the constitution, must sponsor that General Council meeting.
“You are talking about bringing people from far and wide from across the country for that meeting…so people really need to read the constitution carefully,” Lyte noted.
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