“Sign the agreement now! Sign the agreement now!” was the demand that met President David Granger yesterday when he visited the Woolford Avenue headquarters of the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) in the first stop of his May Day visit to labour unions.
Granger appeared unfazed by the teachers’ demand, which comes almost two and a half years since their union would have submitted a multi-year proposal for wages, salaries and non-salary benefits.
The proposal was not accepted and instead after two years negotiations broke down between the union and Ministry of Education and Granger sought to resolve the impasse with the establishment of a high-level task force to address the proposal. The task force, which comprised representatives of the Ministries of Education, Finance, Communities, Public Service and Presidency as well as representatives of the union, completed its work and submitted its report to Minister of Education Nicolette Henry on April 6th, 2018.
Minister Henry has since submitted the report to Cabinet but there has been no word on a decision as yet. GTU President Mark Lyte told Stabroek News yesterday that the union is willing to give government at most another two weeks within which to respond as it recognises that the final report, the terms of which have not been made public, asks for “a lot.”
Granger later indicated to reporters that Minister of Finance Winston Jordan is considering the report and will report to Cabinet afterward.
Under the “Proposed memorandum of agreement entered into between the Ministry of Education and the GTU concerning terms and conditions of employment for teachers and teacher educators for the years 2016-2020,” the union had sought a 40% increase in 2016, a 45% increase in 2017, 50% in 2018, 50% in 2019 and 50% in 2020.
The union submitted its proposal for a new multi-year agreement after the expiration of the 2010 to 2015 agreement on December 31st, 2015. That agreement provided for teachers to receive a 5% across-the-board increase in each of the years covered under the agreement. It followed a similar agreement which provided teachers 5% from 2006 to 2010.
Negotiations between the union and the ministry on the 2015 agreement began in January, 2016 but broke down last year 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 teachers to remain at home for two days.
The strike action was, however, put on hold after 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.