Joint task force completes work on teachers’ wages proposal

The Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) does not expect that its members will have to wait much longer for feedback on the work of the high-level task force set up to address its multi-year proposal to government on wages and conditions.

Union President Mark Lyte told Stabroek News that the work of the task force was completed in February but the report is still to be submitted to Minister of Education Nicolette Henry.

“The expectation is that the report will be handed over to the Minister—on Friday—who will communicate the recommendation to Cabinet,” Lyte said.

He added that while he will not identify any of the recommendations, since they have not been approved, he would note that they are in line with the multi-year proposal and are expected to address many of the needs of teachers, including acceptable salary increases.

The task force, which comprises representatives of the ministries of Education, Finance, Communities, Public Service and Presidency as well as representatives of the union, was established after negotiations broke down between the union and Ministry of Education.

Two years ago, on December 16th, 2015, the GTU submitted its multi-year proposal to the Ministry of Education. Six months ago, the union threatened to strike after it accused government of being disrespectful by failing to respond to the proposal. Three months ago, the union publicly set December 20th as the deadline for completion of the work of the high level negotiating team, which was established by government. Two months 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.

In January, sources familiar with the work of the task force told Stabroek News that the final report on the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the Education Sector had not been submitted and its absence had delayed negotiations.

According to those sources, at least two more sessions as well as the completed CoI report were necessary for the work of the task force to be completed.

The CoI report has since been submitted.

Negotiations between the union and the ministry had broken down after 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 2nd and Friday November 3rd.

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

The union delegation was later assured by Granger that Henry was premature in her declaration. It was also told that despite the ministry being in receipt of the union’s 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.

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