MoE, GTU have similar circumstances

first_imgDear Editor,Because education plays a critical role in any nation’s development, I have been paying keen attention to the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) and the Ministry of Education’s negotiations for the teachers’ multi-year package, 2016-2020.Editor, please permit me some space in your pages to share my opinion on the above subject.It was reported that the GTU proposed an across-the-board increase in salary of 40% for 2016; 45% in 2017; and 50% in 2018, 2019 and 2020 be granted to all categories of teachers and teacher educators for the years 2016-2020.I wish to point out my view on this, and I am certain others share some, if not all, of these sentiments that will be put forward as I analyse the ongoing negotiations between the two parties.Foremost, let me say from the start that the MoE is not solely responsible for this impasse. The GTU must share some of the blame. Editor, I believe the GTU has a right and a responsibility to champion the rights of its members. However, this should be looked at in the context of the situation in its entirety, and not from a partisan angle.The first mistake the GTU made was when is asked for those hefty increases at a time when the Government was doling out $32B to prop up the ailing Guyana Sugar Cooperation. And we have not even considered the many other financial obligations in regard to loan payments and the funding of infrastructural works across the country, which are critical to national development. In short, the union should have proposed a more realistic sum; with limited fiscal space, it was always unlikely that the Government would have agreed to those increases.I am sure the MoE recognises the importance of resolving this issue, but I am not at all surprised when the Minister of Education noted that there was no fiscal space to facilitate such increases at this time; note: “at this time”.If the GTU President, Mr Mark Lyte, is serious about finding a swift resolution to this issue, I believe he should rethink his approach. I say that knowing almost for certain that if and when this issue attracts the services of an arbiter, the GTU proposed increases will be significantly lowered. Why not accept the $700 million for the 2018 increases across the board for teachers, while both parties look to ink an agreement for the remaining years?It was noticed also that the GTU and the MoE agreed to other non-financial benefits for teachers. Headteachers will now be freed up from dorm duties at those schools that have that facility. The MoE has agreed to employ additional dorm staff to aid in this regard. There is the duty-free concession for 100 teachers for 2018, who rightly have to meet certain criteria. Notwithstanding this number, the Minister of Education has agreed to look at widening this pool to capture additional teachers. Teachers who work in the interior will now be entitled to return flight to the area where they originally reside.I am not saying the union should be passive, but I believe that, as a serious union, it should consider the situation of the Ministry of Education and the Government of Guyana. I feel the concern of President Granger when he said that his government did not want a confrontation with teachers.Editor, it is at this juncture that I want to ask Mr Mark Lyte some questions. He has embarked on a countrywide sensitisation of his union’s proposed strike action, and he said some pretty interesting things. And I wish to point out these, so that union members can solicit some clarity from him.Mr Lyte, paraphrasing, has said the GTU would be unable to provide strike relief for teachers, since your union is low on cash. From the information available, the GTU has around 7000 unionised teachers who pay $500 monthly union dues; that’s $42 million per year for the union’s coffers. The president said they have to pay staff and maintain buildings. Even so, there should be a tangible amount set aside in a bank account somewhere in light of the fact that this sum was being collected for a number of years. If the GTU, by its own admission, does not have money, it should submit its financial affairs to an independent audit.And what about a needs assessment in terms of determining which teacher gets any assistance? Mr Lyte said that would be the most vulnerable in the GTU’s membership. Well, Mr Lyte, all the teachers will be most vulnerable, since they all will see their salaries cut; the GTU should be able to provide some assistance to its members.Mr Lyte, I implore you to look seriously at the offer the Government is proposing as a temporary measure, and rescind your strike call to your members. This nation is poised to experience a golden patch, and the more education this nation is exposed to, the greater are our chances of truly maximising the rich potential of this nation. GTU and MoE, let us cooperate and build this nation.Yours sincerely,Elizabeth Williamslast_img read more