Govt, GTU closer to reaching agreement to end teachers’ strike – Pres Ali

…parties to meet today to discuss Terms of Resumption

The Government is moving closer to reaching an initial agreement with the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) on conditions that would end the more than 60 days strike by some teachers.
This is according to President Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali who stated that progress is being made towards reaching a preliminary agreement while responding to a question posed by the media at his press conference at State House on Thursday.
Ali noted that there have been numerous conversations relating to the resumption of work and the concerns raised by teachers.
“…From the most recent feedback I have received, there seems to be some movement in relation to getting to an initial agreement on terms that would see the situation resumed to some amount of normalcy.”
The strike by some teachers started on February 5. It surrounds a proposal for an increase in wages and salaries along with other interventions.
The Government has highlighted that it is fully prepared to work on a multi-year agreement from 2024 with teachers but the GTU held out that negotiations for salaries must commence from 2019. It later recanted and agreed to negotiate from 2022.
To this end, the Head of State stressed that the Government will continue to prioritise the well-being and needs of teachers, students, and parents.
As part of its continuous developmental ambitions, the Government is heavily investing in the education sector to execute numerous policies and programmes.
Additionally, the President stated that students will have greater access to educational opportunities.
“We are committed to ensuring that they have fair treatment. We are committed to ensuring that their welfare and lives in totality improve as our country continues to improve,” he vowed.
“And our priorities [are] to ensure that our children will not suffer or the teachers. And that is why we are investing in giving our teachers the best infrastructural conditions to work in, supporting their career development and supporting their personal aspirations for education and becoming trained.”
As the world continues to transform digitally, the government is looking to establish its first digital school shortly in the country.
Ali further pointed out, “Continuous learning will be heavily influenced by technology. We said that we want to have the most skilled population. The most skilled population must allow every citizen, those who dropped out of school, and those who didn’t have the opportunity to go to school to be in an environment of learning…”
Meanwhile, after talks failed for the third time between the two parties, they both signalled interest in ending the ongoing strike and as such, it was agreed that the Ministry on behalf of the Government would map out the way forward and later communicate the same to the Labour Ministry to mediate a final meeting.
However, during an interview with the Guyana Times, Labour Minister Joseph Hamilton disclosed that his ministry has not engaged the Education Ministry since the last meeting (June 10).
“We have no new information other than the meeting ending with the Ministry of Education saying that they will return or they will speak to the GTU about their proposal” Minister Hamilton recently told the Guyana Times.
Nevertheless, General Secretary of the Guyana Teacher’s Union (GTU) Coretta McDonald stated that the union is still prepared to pursue national arbitration if talks fail for a third time.
On this point, she noted that the nationwide teacher’s strike continues. “Well, we can only say that the Ministry of Education and by extension, the Government, are not interested in the education of our children. They are not interested in the welfare of our teachers. And the ordinary people in this country simply don’t mean anything to this Government because of the way they’re operating,” she contended.
Meanwhile, the President of the GTU, Mark Lyte told sections of the media that another meeting with the Ministry of Education is set for today. While he did not offer any details, Lyte revealed that the Union will be heading into that meeting with an agreed position, based on consultations with teachers from across the country on the Terms of Resumption.
Guyana Times understands that one of the concerns by the GTU is that teachers could be struck off the “pay sheet” if they fail to report to work on the last day of the current school term and the first day of the next school term.
The Government had stated that it had already addressed over 20 issues affecting teachers, aimed at improving their working conditions and overall welfare.
In fact, at the time of the last strike, President Dr Irfaan Ali had reminded that he had already met with teachers across the country and outlined the Government’s plan to improve their livelihoods.