Hundreds of Berbice teachers attend GTU’s meeting

first_imgHundreds of teachers turned out at Corentyne, Berbice on Friday as the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) held its last meeting before the proposed strike on Monday and were told that the Union’s action is not a political one but rather a bread and butter issue.Backed by their Union, the teachers agreed to take to the streets on Monday to signal the start of a strike to press demands for wage increases. For this entire week, the Union has been vigorously mobilising its membership to support the strike action, aimed at forcing the Government commit to GTU’s wage increase proposals.On Friday, the teachers met at the Albion Community Centre in Region Six (EastBerbice teachers stood united during the meeting with the Guyana Teachers Union on FridayBerbice-Corentyne) where about 1500 of the 7000 teachers work.The Guyana Teachers’ Union decided on the industrial action after talks on salary increases for teachers broke down between the Union and Government.The Union had initially taken a 32-issue proposal to Government but after meeting with a high-level task force, the GTU relinquished five of its proposals.Heading the list is a proposed 40 per cent wage increase for teachers from 2015 and a five per cent increase annually thereinafter.President of the Union, Mark Lyte, addressing the teachers said what Government proposed was a $700 million payout to the teachers which will work out at average of $866 per month for the next five years. That proposal has not been accepted.The Union is also pressing Government to pay teachers an average of $64,000 on an agreement with the Government since 2011. The Union is also demanding that the teachers get what was promised to them by the Government.Lyte explained that Government offered what he called a ball-park figure to be given to the 10,000 teachers. “The proposal says, ‘the Government of Guyana will make available a ballpark figure to facilitate debauching exercise for the new year, 2018-2019.’ So this $200 million would have been available for the new academic year only. So what happen to our $64,000 that was owed to us? Minister Amna Ally told us to forget it,” Lyte told the Berbice teachers.Lyte had ever since shared his opinion that the assertion uttered by Minister ofUnion President Mark Lyte among the teachers on FridayState Joseph Harmon seemed to indicate a lack of desire on the part of Government – despite the efforts of a task force that it had appointed – to pay teachers their just deserts.For this very reason, the Union has not been taking lightly the decision to resort to strike action.The last time teachers were given a salary increase was in 2011.At the end of 2015, a multi-year salary package between the Union and the previous Government came to an end, which saw the Union crafting and submitting to the Education Ministry; a new proposal intended to span the period 2016-2020.Unwilling to accept the slothful pace of the negotiations with the Education Ministry, the Union had threatened to engage strike action back in 2017, a move which was averted by Government’s offer to establish a high-level committee, consisting of Government and Union representatives, to fast-track the negotiation process.The Union is proposing that the allowance for teachers who teach special needs schools be increased from $1000 to $10,000. Government has also not agreed to increase clothing allowances for teachers which has been pegged at $8000 since 2011.The proposed strike is expected to start one week before the new school term. According to the Union’s President, if head teachers are going to be on strike then they need to hand over the school keys to the Department of Education before the actions commence. Meanwhile, some temporary teachers are of the view that if they were to go on strike, they will be replaced by trained teachers who are waiting to get into the system. Lyte added that they could go to work and still be laid off because they are temporary.Education Minister Nicolette Henry did say that measures will be put in place if the teachers strike. Some of those measures she outlined are working a shift system in schools and having volunteers take over schools among others.However, on Friday, Lyte said he finds the Minister’s proposal as hilarious.“I don’t know if the Minister understood what it took for us to have teachers. We are not replicable. Let us see what this emergency plan is because somebody will have to conduct my orientation when the parents show up on Monday; me nor none of my teachers will be in school,” Lyte said after being assured that many of the head teachers had already handed in their keys to the Department of Education. (Andrew Carmichael)last_img

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