Though the work of the high level negotiation task force is completed, Guyana’s teachers will celebrate Christmas with no idea of what progress their union has made on their behalf.
Two years ago on December 16, 2015 the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) submitted its multi-year proposal to the Ministry of Education, two months ago the union threatened to strike after it accused government of being disrespectful by failing to respond to that proposal, three weeks ago the union publicly set December 20 as the deadline for completion of the work of the High Level negotiating team established by government, three days ago GTU General Secretary, Coretta McDonald told Stabroek News that a joint press release of the team’s achievements would be issued “soon” but today both the union and the government are silent.
Repeated attempts to reach the union over the last two days have failed as the phones of its executive members remained unanswered.
Negotiations broke down 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.
The delegation was later 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.
During the meeting with the President 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 was constituted on October 30 effectively averting the strike.
At the time of its formation General Secretary of the union, McDonald, explained to the Sunday Stabroek 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.”
McDonald was hopeful that the Task Force’s work would not extend beyond the end of November but was certain that the union would not allow the present stalemate to continue to the end of 2017.
Union President Mark Lyte later indicated that December 20 had been set as the deadline.