Education Ministry presents counter-proposal to GPSU
In one week’s time, schools countrywide will reopen their doors to students for a new school year, but the situation regarding sweeper-cleaners – the people who play a crucial role in creating and maintaining a clean environment in educational establishments run by the Government – is at this moment still unresolved.
The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), representative of this segment of the State’s workers, has said it is still trying to see “something positive” forthcoming from the State before commencement of the new school year.
The more-than-100 sweeper-cleaners who had earlier this month taken militant action to call Government’s attention to their situation had promised that they would not be cleaning the schools unless their issues were resolved; and that if their issues remained unresolved, students and teachers would be confronted with dirty classrooms when school reopens.
They had engaged in protest action first at the Ministry of the Presidency (MoTP), then at the Ministry of Finance (MoF), then at the Ministry of Education (MoE) on at least two occasions. Their last protest action, taken one week ago, had seen officials of the MoE reaching out to the GPSU with a request for a meeting. At that meeting, the GPSU was asked to present a proposal for the sweeper-cleaners.
First Vice President of the GPSU, Mortimer Livan, has said that after the GPSU had submitted its proposal, the MoE — apparently dissatisfied therewith — had presented its own proposal. The two bodies had been expected to meet again on Monday, to consult on a way forward.
Livan has said that the GPSU has been in contact with the sweeper-cleaners, updating them on progress made in regard to their issues, and that the mounting protests would continue until someone listens to the cries of the sweeper-cleaners.
The sweeper-cleaners’ most recent protest action was held last Tuesday, moments before the GPSU was invited to meet with an MoE official.
Just about three weeks ago, sweeper-cleaners from schools across the country protested in front of the Ministry of the Presidency in what would become the first of a number of demonstrations in front of government agencies. They had said they were tired of the system that was treating them “inhumanely”, and had complained about poor working conditions and very low wages.
While the MoE is currently engaging the GPSU, Finance Minister Winston Jordan had said that Cabinet has also been discussing matters regarding the state of affairs of the sweeper-cleaners.
The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) has been calling for Government to implement some decisions made during a 2013 Cabinet meeting with the previous People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Administration. GPSU’s first Vice President, Mortimer Livan, has said that neither the previous PPP Administration nor this current APNU/AFC Administration has implemented the decisions, which include that the wages of sweeper/cleaners be set in accordance with the minimum wage order, and that payment be timely. He said the matter was brought up again with President David Granger, but even with his directives, nothing has been done. (Alexis Rodney)