Union’s concerns for joint review

-Granger ‘astonished’ at new matters raised

Nicolette Henry

The Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) and the Ministry of Education (MoE) have “committed to review” new information provided by the union that were not discussed or considered prior to government’s offer of a 10 percent increase in salaries for 2016 and eight percent for 2018.

The two parties will meet again tomorrow to continue talks. According to a joint statement following a meeting at the MoE’s Brickdam office yesterday, “The two parties have committed to review the new information with a view of ensuring that the interest of all teachers would be considered.

“The Ministry of Education has undertaken to provide a matrix of figures which will be presented for discussion on October 12, 2018,” the statement added.

Coretta McDonald

The two parties, led by Minister of Education Nicolette Henry and GTU President Mark Lyte, emerged from yesterday’s meeting smiling, an indication that, at least, the GTU had not rejected government’s offer. GTU General Secretary Coretta McDonald had told Stabroek News on Tuesday that teachers were not in favour of the government’s new wage offer and that GTU was hoping that the two parties could iron out sensitive issues. These included rescinding the unilateral appointment of the chairman of the arbitration panel and of a letter that was sent by the MoE Secretariat warning teachers of consequences should they take industrial action.

Although this newspaper understands that the union raised concerns over the ministry’s offers, officials from both sides were tight-lipped after yesterday’s meeting.

Yesterday, McDonald told reporters after the meeting, “From what you are seeing here, the meeting was very fruitful…”

Asked if government has adjusted its offer, Henry said, “At this time it is a work in progress.” Asked if the work in progress was likely to adjust the offer, she said, “The offer provided by the government continues at this time to be a work in progress. Okay?”

Quizzed on the union’s position going into the meeting, McDonald said, “GTU would have provided, like the document is saying, new information and coming out of the new information provided, discussions were had on them. We have arrived at a position where we are going to meet on Friday with the matrix that is going to be presented so that we can move forward.”

Asked what transpired during the two-hour long meeting, Henry said, “The statement that you would have received represented in its entirety how the discussion was today.”

McDonald, echoed Henry’s sentiments, while adding that “more information will be given on Friday after we would have had our meeting on the matrix of figures. The matrix would be presented.”

The GTU, she said, “would want all our teachers to [benefit] from whatever the increase is going to be.”

Pressed on what were the new information presented, McDonald said, “Like everything else, we would have had promotions. So with promotions come new salaries. Those are all new information.”

On the other hand, the new information, Henry said, “is a work in progress. New information is nothing specific that we would want to share at this point in time. A lot of what has to be sorted out requires the interaction of both parties so that we can resolve the issues.”

On whether a final resolution could be expected on Friday, McDonald said, “Hopefully. We are looking forward to having a resolution on Friday.”

Have faith

Meanwhile, in a message to teachers, McDonald asked that they have faith in their executive. “Be a little patient because whatever we do, our teachers, you are our main concern and you are going to benefit from whatever is the outcome of all of this.” The teachers should have slept well last night, she said, “knowing that something good is expected to come on Friday.”   

Earlier yesterday, President David Granger expressed surprise, following an accreditation ceremony at State House, at some of the matters raised by the GTU in the press after their meeting on Monday. He said that had they been raised, they would have been resolved

 “It was quite astonishing that these matters going back to the appointment of an arbitrator did not come up at all. I was quite surprised that matters we assumed were settled, found their way into the columns of the newspaper,” he said, in an apparent reference to a report in yesterday’s Stabroek News.

The ministry and the GTU, he added, had already gone past conciliation and arbitration and they were at the stage of settlement. “There was wide area of agreement between the two sides. The type of reporting that I saw was not consistent with the mood and the outcomes of the meeting on Friday,” he added.

The list of matters raised in the newspapers, he said, “at least in one newspaper and attributed to one person, were not matters that were raised.”

At Monday’s meeting, he said, there was an understanding that the government’s side was obliged to go back to the Ministry of Finance to verify the figures and that the union would go back to its executive to ratify the figures.

“When we parted on Monday morning, there was not talk of going to the media – trial by media. There was talk about verification from the Ministry of Finance and maybe seeking their assent by the GTU.”

When he left the meeting on Monday, Granger said, the outcome was favourable and he felt they were coming to the end of the crisis. He said there had also been no talk of rejection. 

Yesterday’s Stabroek News reported McDonald as saying that the majority of teachers were not in favour of government’s offer and it would have had to rethink its offer. She had said that no offer had been made for the year 2017 as the ministry had assumed that the increases had already been taken care off. Other issues remaining included the fact that they were considering a three-year agreement instead of a five-year agreement. Also of concern is the lack of a system in place to pay teachers for additional qualifications such as additional degrees to the degree in Education.

 

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