Teachers wage negotiations delayed

The final report on the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the Education Sector has not been submitted and its absence has delayed negotiations on teachers’ salaries and conditions.

Sources familiar with the work of the high-level negotiation task force set up to address the multi-year proposal to government from the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU), have told Stabroek News that at least two more sessions are necessary for the work to be completed. Also necessary is the complete report of the CoI into the Education Sector.

The source explained that while discussions have so far seen good progress, the missed meetings at the beginning of negotiations mean that the work is incomplete.

Additionally, former Chief Education Officer Genevieve Whyte-Nedd who was expected to have been leading the task force has not been part of its discussions rather Permanent Secretary Vibert Welch has led negotiations.

It was also noted that government expected to have the results of the CoI inform its decision making but the absence of its final report has made this impossible. The CoI into education was chaired by former Chief Education Officer Ed Caesar.

The inquiry which began in April 2016 was expected to last for four months instead it progressed for a year while Caesar and team travelled the country. A year later, a 28-page preliminary report was submitted to now former Minister of Education Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine on April 28.

The task force which comprised on one hand, representatives from the Ministries of Education, Finance, Communities, Public Service and Presidency and, on the other hand, representatives from the Union was established after negotiations broke down between the union and Ministry of Education.

Two years ago on December 16, 2015 the GTU submitted its multi-year proposal to the Ministry of Education, three months ago the union threatened to strike after it accused government of being disrespectful by failing to respond to that proposal, four 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, 11 days ago GTU General Secretary Coretta McDonald  told Stabroek News that a joint press release on the team’s achievements would be issued “soon” but this has not occurred.

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 which was constituted on October 30 effectively averting the strike.

At the time of its formation 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.”

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.

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