Teach­ers deal in­cludes 100 duty-free ve­hi­cle con­ces­sions per year, 20 new UG schol­ar­ships

Stabroek News Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - By Than­deka Per­ci­val

One hun­dred duty-free ve­hi­cle con­ces­sions for cer­tain se­nior teach­ers and 20 new schol­ar­ships to study Science and Tech­ni­cal Ed­u­ca­tion at the Univer­sity of Guyana are among the few con­crete non-salary ben­e­fits that the Guyana Teach­ers’ Union (GTU) was able to se­cure in the agree­ment signed with the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion (MoE) last Wed­nes­day.

On Wed­nes­day, af­ter three years of contentious ne­go­ti­a­tions that saw nine days of strike ac­tion, the GTU and min­istry agreed to pay teach­ers tiered in­creases over the pe­riod Jan­uary 2016 to De­cem­ber 2018.

Teach­ers who in 2015 were earn­ing be­low $100,000 will get a 12% in­crease on their salaries for 2016, while those who earned $100,000 and above will re­ceive an 8% in­crease. Spe­cific ref­er­ence is made of the fact that the per­cent­age al­ready paid for 2016 shall form a part of the payment to be re­ceived.

For 2017, the in­terim 8% and 6% granted on the De­cem­ber, 2016 salary shall be fi­nal. Specif­i­cally, those who re­ceived salaries be­low $100,000 per month re­ceived an 8 % in­crease, while salaries $100,000 and above re­ceived a 6% in­crease.

Mean­while for 2018, there will be an 8% in­crease across the board on the De­cem­ber, 2017 salary and a lump sum of $350 mil­lion has been set aside for de­bunch­ing of teach­ers for the pe­riod of 2011 to 2018 with steps set to be taken to place teach­ers in their re­spec­tive

scales from Jan­uary, 2019 to re­flect the var­i­ous in­creases.

The in­crease, though hard won, fell short of both the 40% on 2015 salaries ini­tially re­quested by the union and the 20% that GTU Pres­i­dent Mark Lyte an­nounced as ac­cept­able.

How­ever, it was on its non-salary re­quests where the union was hard­est hit. A re­quest for 200 duty-free con­ces­sions per an­num for mo­tor ve­hi­cles up to 2700 cc and ATV Moun­tain bikes was coun­tered with 100 duty-free con­ces­sions per an­num for ve­hi­cles up to 1800 cc and ATV and out­board en­gines up to 70 Horse­power.

El­i­gi­ble teach­ers in­clude all Heads/ Prin­ci­pals and Deputy Heads/Prin­ci­pals of Grades “A” and “B” Schools/In­sti­tu­tions im­me­di­ately upon ap­point­ment; all Heads/Ad­min­is­tra­tors of Grades C, D and E schools/in­sti­tutes af­ter three con­sec­u­tive years in their ap­point­ment and all se­nior teach­ers and Heads of De­part­ments of all schools and lec­turer II of the Cyril Pot­ter Col­lege of Ed­u­ca­tion (CPCE)/tech­ni­cal/craft in­sti­tu­tions af­ter six con­sec­u­tive years in the same po­si­tion af­ter their ap­point­ment.

No­tably, these per­sons in all cat­e­gories must be mem­bers of the GTU for a pe­riod of not less than three years and must have at least three years re­main­ing be­fore re­tire­ment.

Schol­ar­ships

In the case of schol­ar­ships, the GTU had re­quested an in­crease to 50 an­nual schol­ar­ships from the cur­rent 30 on of­fer but the MoE re­fused.

The coun­terof­fer ac­cepted by the union is that 30 teach­ers will con­tinue to re­ceive schol­ar­ships for a pe­riod of four years at the Univer­sity of Guyana, with an ad­di­tional 20 schol­ar­ships granted to teach­ers to pur­sue science and tech­ni­cal ed­u­ca­tion at the Univer­sity of Guyana.

A re­quest to in­crease the an­nual cloth­ing al­lowance to $25,000 with ef­fect from Jan­uary 1st, 2016, was re­jected; the cloth­ing al­lowance re­mains $8,000 per month.

How­ever, the union has en­sured that this and other al­lowances which were not paid since 2015 will be paid for the years 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Teach­ers will con­tinue to re­ceive the ap­proved rates for im­proved qual­i­fi­ca­tions, with $4,000 be­ing paid for a Cer­tifi­cate in Ed­u­ca­tion, $6,000 for a Diploma in Ed­u­ca­tion; $10,000 for a Mas­ter’s De­gree and $30,000 for a Doc­toral De­gree. There has, how­ever, been an ad­di­tional pro­vi­sion of $10,000 per month for those teach­ers who qual­ify them­selves as Spe­cial Needs Ed­u­ca­tors.

The union had ini­tially re­quested an in­crease to $7,000 for the Cer­tifi­cate in Ed­u­ca­tion, $10,000 for the Diploma in Ed­u­ca­tion, $25,000 for a Mas­ters’ De­gree and $35,000 for a Doc­toral De­gree. There were ad­di­tional re­quests for a $6,000 al­lowance for a Man­age­ment Cer­tifi­cate and $10,000 for a Spe­cial Needs qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

Re­quests for Re­spon­si­bil­ity Al­lowances were de­nied as was a re­quest that there be a Sta­tion and Hard ly­ing Al­lowance of $10,000 for teach­ers work­ing in hin­ter­land ar­eas.

The union was told and ac­cepted that “Teach­ers will be con­sid­ered for in­creased al­lowance in keep­ing with the wider Pub­lic Ser­vice.”

Un­der the cat­e­gory of “Other Wel­fare Mat­ters,” the union had re­quested that all ap­point­ments, dis­ci­plinary mat­ters and pro­mo­tional re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of se­nior and ju­nior teach­ing staff/lec­tur­ers be the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the Teach­ing Ser­vice Com­mis­sion rather than be­ing un­der­taken by the School Board Sec­re­tariat.

The GTU had re­jected the MoE po­si­tion that “the in­ten­tion to de­cen­tralise is laud­able and ef­forts are made to strengthen the School Board Sec­re­tariat to have per­sons with the com­pe­tence and knowl­edge to deal with the is­sues in schools.” It ar­gued that per­sons on the School boards are of­ten not fa­mil­iar with the Ed­u­ca­tion Sys­tem rules and there­fore un­able to per­form ef­fec­tively but have since ap­peared to with­draw this ob­jec­tion since the fi­nal agree­ment makes no men­tion of the pro­vi­sion.

Stu­dents to teach­ers

The agree­ment how­ever takes note of a re­quest that the ra­tio of stu­dents to teacher be 15:1 at the Nurs­ery level, 20:1 at Grades 1 & 2, 25:1 at Grades 3 – 6, 25:1 at Sec­ondary Level and 15:1 at Prac­ti­cal In­struc­tional Cen­tres.

Ac­cord­ing to the agree­ment, these ra­tios will pre­vail sub­ject to the avail­abil­ity of re­sources.

Chief Ed­u­ca­tion Of­fi­cer (CEO) Mar­cel Hut­son had pre­vi­ously ex­plained that “avail­abil­ity of re­sources re­ferred to the num­ber of class­rooms, class sizes, space and num­ber of teach­ers and so forth when con­sid­er­ing the mat­ter” but these cri­te­ria are not en­shrined in the agree­ment.

There is no in­di­ca­tion as to what con­sti­tutes enough class­rooms or num­ber of teach­ers nor is there any in­di­ca­tion that an ex­am­i­na­tion of the cur­rent sta­tus quo will be con­ducted to as­cer­tain what might be needed if any­thing for these cri­te­ria to be bet­ter out­lined.

Other am­bigu­ous pro­vi­sions of the agree­ment in­clude that the Min­istry and GTU “shall mu­tu­ally agree on a mech­a­nism for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Hous­ing Re­volv­ing Fund.”

This fund, first es­tab­lished in 2011, had set aside $200 mil­lion to al­low teach­ers to ac­cess low rate home loans but no teacher has yet ac­cessed this fund since no mech­a­nism for its im­ple­men­ta­tion has been es­tab­lished.

Fur­ther, a re­quest that teach­ers or teacher ed­u­ca­tors be given at least 50 houses in ev­ery de­vel­oped Hous­ing Scheme has been re­worked to a six-per­son com­mit­tee (which is to be es­tab­lished) to pre­pare a po­si­tion pa­per on the grant­ing of house lots to teach­ers and to man­age the re­volv­ing fund.

Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary shakes hands with GTU Pres­i­dent Mark Lyte af­ter the sign­ing of the agree­ment on salary and non-salary ben­e­fits for teach­ers as Chief Ed­u­ca­tion Of­fi­cer Mar­cel Hut­son and GTU Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Coretta McDon­ald look on.

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