One hundred duty-free vehicle concessions for certain senior teachers and 20 new scholarships to study Science and Technical Education at the University of Guyana are among the few concrete non-salary benefits that the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) was able to secure in the agreement signed with the Ministry of Education (MoE) last Wednesday.
On Wednesday, after three years of contentious negotiations that saw nine days of strike action, the GTU and ministry agreed to pay teachers tiered increases over the period January 2016 to December 2018.
Teachers who in 2015 were earning below $100,000 will get a 12% increase on their salaries for 2016, while those who earned $100,000 and above will receive an 8% increase. Specific reference is made of the fact that the percentage already paid for 2016 shall form a part of the payment to be received.
For 2017, the interim 8% and 6% granted on the December, 2016 salary shall be final. Specifically, those who received salaries below $100,000 per month received an 8 % increase, while salaries $100,000 and above received a 6% increase.
Meanwhile for 2018, there will be an 8% increase across the board on the December, 2017 salary and a lump sum of $350 million has been set aside for debunching of teachers for the period of 2011 to 2018 with steps set to be taken to place teachers in their respective scales from January, 2019 to reflect the various increases.
The increase, though hard won, fell short of both the 40% on 2015 salaries initially requested by the union and the 20% that GTU President Mark Lyte announced as acceptable.
However, it was on its non-salary requests where the union was hardest hit. A request for 200 duty-free concessions per annum for motor vehicles up to 2700 cc and ATV Mountain bikes was countered with 100 duty-free concessions per annum for vehicles up to 1800 cc and ATV and outboard engines up to 70 Horsepower.
Eligible teachers include all Heads/Principals and Deputy Heads/Principals of Grades “A” and “B” Schools/Institutions immediately upon appointment; all Heads/Administrators of Grades C, D and E schools/institutes after three consecutive years in their appointment and all senior teachers and Heads of Departments of all schools and lecturer II of the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE)/technical/craft institutions after six consecutive years in the same position after their appointment.
Notably, these persons in all categories must be members of the GTU for a period of not less than three years and must have at least three years remaining before retirement.
In the case of scholarships, the GTU had requested an increase to 50 annual scholarships from the current 30 on offer but the MoE refused.
The counteroffer accepted by the union is that 30 teachers will continue to receive scholarships for a period of four years at the University of Guyana, with an additional 20 scholarships granted to teachers to pursue science and technical education at the University of Guyana.
A request to increase the annual clothing allowance to $25,000 with effect from January 1st, 2016, was rejected; the clothing allowance remains $8,000 per month.
However, the union has ensured that this and other allowances which were not paid since 2015 will be paid for the years 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Teachers will continue to receive the approved rates for improved qualifications, with $4,000 being paid for a Certificate in Education, $6,000 for a Diploma in Education; $10,000 for a Master’s Degree and $30,000 for a Doctoral Degree. There has, however, been an additional provision of $10,000 per month for those teachers who qualify themselves as Special Needs Educators.
The union had initially requested an increase to $7,000 for the Certificate in Education, $10,000 for the Diploma in Education, $25,000 for a Masters’ Degree and $35,000 for a Doctoral Degree. There were additional requests for a $6,000 allowance for a Management Certificate and $10,000 for a Special Needs qualification.
Requests for Responsibility Allowances were denied as was a request that there be a Station and Hard lying Allowance of $10,000 for teachers working in hinterland areas.
The union was told and accepted that “Teachers will be considered for increased allowance in keeping with the wider Public Service.”
Under the category of “Other Welfare Matters,” the union had requested that all appointments, disciplinary matters and promotional responsibilities of senior and junior teaching staff/lecturers be the responsibility of the Teaching Service Commission rather than being undertaken by the School Board Secretariat.
The GTU had rejected the MoE position that “the intention to decentralise is laudable and efforts are made to strengthen the School Board Secretariat to have persons with the competence and knowledge to deal with the issues in schools.” It argued that persons on the School boards are often not familiar with the Education System rules and therefore unable to perform effectively but have since appeared to withdraw this objection since the final agreement makes no mention of the provision.
Students to teachers
The agreement however takes note of a request that the ratio of students to teacher be 15:1 at the Nursery level, 20:1 at Grades 1 & 2, 25:1 at Grades 3 – 6, 25:1 at Secondary Level and 15:1 at Practical Instructional Centres.
According to the agreement, these ratios will prevail subject to the availability of resources.
Chief Education Officer (CEO) Marcel Hutson had previously explained that “availability of resources referred to the number of classrooms, class sizes, space and number of teachers and so forth when considering the matter” but these criteria are not enshrined in the agreement.
There is no indication as to what constitutes enough classrooms or number of teachers nor is there any indication that an examination of the current status quo will be conducted to ascertain what might be needed if anything for these criteria to be better outlined.
Other ambiguous provisions of the agreement include that the Ministry and GTU “shall mutually agree on a mechanism for the implementation of the Housing Revolving Fund.”
This fund, first established in 2011, had set aside $200 million to allow teachers to access low rate home loans but no teacher has yet accessed this fund since no mechanism for its implementation has been established.
Further, a request that teachers or teacher educators be given at least 50 houses in every developed Housing Scheme has been reworked to a six-person committee (which is to be established) to prepare a position paper on the granting of house lots to teachers and to manage the revolving fund.