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GTU General-Secretary Coretta McDonald
GTU General-Secretary Coretta McDonald

– MoE, GTU still to sign salary increase agreement

THE government and the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) have not yet signed a written agreement, as they are still “ironing out” a few non-salary issues.

“No, it has not been signed. There’s some issues still to be ironed out, as a result of that, the agreement was not signed,” GTU General-Secretary Coretta McDonald told the Guyana Chronicle on Thursday.

After coming to an agreement on salary increases last Friday, the GTU and the Ministry of Education (MoE) were scheduled to meet last Wednesday to sign the official document, recording what they had agreed.

Though the two sides did meet, the agreement was not signed as the union came to realise that there were still a few issues to be dealt with; so they’re now expected to meet again in the coming week.

Said McDonald: “When we recognised that these issues that were supposed to be clarified were not clarified, we couldn’t have the meeting.

“In another week’s time, we’re expected to meet and we’re hoping that by that time, we’re able to iron out all of these little hitches, so that the agreement can go through.”
Following the resumption of negotiations between the GTU and the MoE last week, with the involvement of President David Granger, the GTU was offered a retroactive salary increase of 16 per cent for 2016, and eight per cent respectively for 2017 and 2018, which brought an end to over two months of deliberations between the two sides.

However, while the GTU and the MoE have finally come to an aggreement on salary increases, the non-salary issues still to be worked out include those pertaining to duty-free concessions, the size of classes and qualification allowances.

DUTY-FREE ALLOWANCES
“For the duty-free allowance,” McDonald said, “the GTU needs to be clear on the ‘cc’ that is going to be approved; whether it’s going to be 1800cc or 2000cc.”
And in the case of the qualification allowance, she said, there’s a technicality on the number of teachers that are expected to get an allowance for a particular qualification.
“The allowance for additional qualifications has to do with those persons who are doing Special Ed, and those persons who have completed the Management Certificate,” McDonald said, adding:

“We no longer have the Certificate in Education being offered by the University of Guyana, because of the time-frame that you now have to do the degree programme.
“You are no longer having the Certificate in Education; you’re having the management programme being offered right now. So what we need to do is withdraw the title, Certificate in Education, and insert Management Certificate.
“It’s just a mere case of switching names and ascertaining the amount of teachers that would have completed that programme. All it would change is the amount of persons that would receive this allowance.”

CLASS SIZES
On the issue of class sizes, McDonald related that what the GTU is asking is that already existing laws be enforced.
“We’re asking that what is in the law be maintained and enforced, so that you wouldn’t have primary schools with 69 and 75 children in the class and nursery schools, where you have 60 children to one teacher,” she said, adding:
“Regardless of if it’s one or two nursery schools that it’s happening in, it should not happen at all.

“We would have had a stipulation there that would’ve talked about class sizes from nursery to secondary and the practical instruction centres. This isn’t anything new; this is in accordance with what the law provides for. So we’re asking that those numbers be kept and observed at all times.”

McDonald does not see these issues becoming big enough to hinder the agreement going forward, as the GTU is eager to see everything finalised.

“We’re hoping that it wouldn’t become a problem. The thing is, the faster we get these out of the way and have the agreement signed, it’s better for us, because that means it’s going to pave the way for early talks for the 2019 process,” she said, adding:

“Because, this package is just a three-year package, so we’re still looking. And 2019 is just around the corner, and we need to decide whether it will be a package that will take us to 2021 or 2023.

“Whatever we do after now, it’s going to continue to be multi-year, but we’re not sure if the government is going to go for the five or they’re up for three.”cc

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