Teach­ers hold off on strike

-af­ter gov't agrees to high-level task force

Stabroek News - - FRONT PAGE -

Gov­ern­ment and the GTU yes­ter­day agreed to set up a high-level task force to ad­dress ne­go­ti­a­tions on teach­ers’ pay and con­di­tions, avert­ing a strike that had been planned for this week.

For now Guyana’s teach­ers will re­ceive the same in­crease as other pub­lic ser­vants how­ever, the Guyana Teach­ers’ Union (GTU) is hop­ing that the two-year an­niver­sary of the sub­mis­sion of its mul­ti­year pro­posal – De­cem­ber - will find its mem­bers with a bet­ter deal.

Gen­eral Sec­re­tary of the union, Coretta McDon­ald, ex­plained to Stabroek News that the union which has been en­gag­ing the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion since De­cem­ber 2015 is “con­fi­dent” that this new phase of ne­go­ti­a­tions will “yield re­sults.”

“We have the ma­jor play­ers in the pond right so what we are ask­ing teach­ers to do is be pa­tient for just a lit­tle while longer so that we can work through this process and see what it yields,” McDon­ald said.

McDon­ald was speak­ing af­ter a meet­ing be­tween Pres­i­dent David Granger and a del­e­ga­tion from the GTU at State House yes­ter­day.

The meet­ing was held to dis­cuss the way for­ward with re­gard to ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the Gov­ern­ment and the Union. Ne­go­ti­a­tions broke down last Thurs­day af­ter Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion Ni­co­lette Henry told the union that gov­ern­ment could only of­fer wage in­creases in keep­ing with those of­fered to pub­lic ser­vants. In re­sponse to Henry’s state­ment, the GTU del­e­ga­tion walked out of the meet­ing and called on its teach­ers to stay home on Thurs­day Novem­ber 2 and Fri­day Novem­ber 3.

The strike ac­tion was put on hold af­ter Pres­i­dent Granger asked to meet the union and as­sured that the col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing process would be pur­sued.

Yes­ter­day, the del­e­ga­tion was as­sured that Henry was pre­ma­ture in her dec­la­ra­tion. They were also told that de­spite the MoE be­ing in re­ceipt of the union pro­posal since 2015 the only is­sue taken to cabi­net in re­la­tion to teach­ers was a re­quest to have the de-bunch­ing pay­ments agreed to in 2006 paid out. This re­quest was taken by for­mer Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion Dr Ru­pert Roop­naraine.

To­day, Min­is­ter Henry will take to cabi­net not the teach­ers’ pro­posal but the is­sue of the com­po­si­tion of the High level Task Force which is ex­pected to fa­cil­i­tate ne­go­ti­a­tions.

“Dur­ing the meet­ing the two sides agreed to the es­tab­lish­ment of a High Level Task Force com­pris­ing on one hand, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Min­istries of Ed­u­ca­tion, Fi­nance, Com­mu­ni­ties, Pub­lic Ser­vice and Pres­i­dency and, on the other hand, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Union. The Task Force is ex­pected to be con­sti­tuted by Wed­nes­day, Novem­ber 1, 2017,” a joint press state­ment from the gov­ern­ment and the GTU ex­plained yes­ter­day.

The state­ment fur­ther noted that at its first meet­ing the Task Force is ex­pected to es­tab­lish time­lines for its ses­sions and the com­ple­tion of its work.

McDon­ald is hope­ful that this time­line will not ex­tend beyond the end of Novem­ber and is cer­tain that the union will not al­low the present stale­mate to con­tinue to the end of 2017.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the state­ment said that the GTU

“has agreed to pro­vide a com­plete dossier of its fi­nan­cial and non-fi­nan­cial sub­mis­sions by Wed­nes­day, Novem­ber 1, 2017.” McDon­ald notes that this sub­mis­sion will be the same as that pre­vi­ously sub­mit­ted.

Asked if the pro­posal had not al­ready been sub­mit­ted to the var­i­ous Min­istries as pre­vi­ously re­ported, McDon­ald said that while the GTU had sent copies to the Min­istry of Fi­nance and the Min­istry of the Pres­i­dency the ex­pec­ta­tion was that the sub­ject Min­is­ter would make rep­re­sen­ta­tion at the level of Cabi­net and this did not hap­pen.

“They told us they re­ceived noth­ing,” she stressed, adding that the Task Force will also ad­dress is­sues such as ad­e­quate hous­ing for those teach­ers as­signed to in­te­rior lo­ca­tions and schol­ar­ship pro­grammes.

The state­ment ex­plained that this agenda was de­cided in line with a sug­ges­tion from Pres­i­dent Granger who pro­posed that the task force take a holis­tic view on the im­prove­ment of the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor.

In­cluded in this holis­tic view will be “the find­ings of the Com­mis­sion of In­quiry into the Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­tor in Guyana and other mat­ters re­lat­ing to the well­be­ing of teach­ers and stu­dents.”

The gov­ern­ment del­e­ga­tion (right) and the GTU team (Min­istry of the Pres­i­dency photo)

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