New proposals placed on table as GTU and MoE resume talks

New proposals placed on table as GTU and MoE resume talks

By Svetlana Marshall

The high-level meeting between the Ministry of Education and the Guyana Teachers’ Union ended today with a number of fresh proposals on the table.

Among the new proposals put forward by the GTU, is for a multi agreement to be completed within thirty days.

As he exited the Ministry of Labour today along with his Executives, President of the Teachers’ Union, Dr. Mark Lyte, told News Source that the meeting ended in deadlock, but with a commitment on both sides to consider the fresh set of proposals that could ultimately lead to the end of the strike. 

“Both parties give a commitment that we will go back to our members; GTU will go back to their members,and the ministry will go back to their principals…And I think both parties have given some indication that we wanted to have this matter concluded, and therefore, positions were shifted on both sides as to how we can achieve that,” Lyte told News Source. 

He explained that today’s meeting focused largely on the terms of resumption, which included the 30-day timeframe for the completion of negotiations on the proposed multi-year package for teachers, and an interim payment to teachers pending the conclusion of that negotiation.

However, he said the Education Ministry, led by its Permanent Secretary and Chief Education Officer, has not shown a willingness to compromise on the interim payment. 

“That was one of the things the ministry objected to again, about the interim payout so that remains a contentious issue – the payout – and we know it is critical to the resumption process…And we are holding out on that but like I said, there are some other considerations that were put forward with the hope that the ministry can look at that, if there can be an interim, then they could consider that. One of which is looking at a tighter timeline for the conclusion of the proposal talks,” he explained. 

Lyte said the Ministry has committed to consider the 30-day timeframe for the conclusion of negotiations, once those negotiations begin on the proposed multi-year financial package for teachers.

Initially, the Union had proposed that the agreement span a period of five years from 2019-2023, but since then, it has said it would agree to a proposal covering 2022 to 2025.

Meanwhile, the General Secretary of the GTU, Coretta McDonald today laid the blame for the ongoing strike action at the feet of the Government. She said the union has been making a number of compromises, even as the Government holds steady to its position.

“We initiated this meeting, because we thought that it was enough time from the last time we met, which was May 20 to now, that the Ministry would have reconsidered their position. We came with a lot of hopes this morning, but like everything else, our balloons went down because the government is saying through the Ministry of Education they are not prepared to budge. We have offered several options and all of those options were rejected by the Ministry of Education, which is saying to us that the Ministry of Education and the Government are quite comfortable with this state of affairs,” McDonald said. 

She told News Source that tremendous learning loss is taking place at a time when students should have been preparing for their final exams.

“This meeting today was initiated by us, and that is because we are concerned about what is happening – the state of education in this country. We are concerned that our learners are at home and our teachers are there at home, not being fully engaged. And, at this time when it is the last term for the academic year, which is the term for promotion, nothing is really happening, and as you would know we started this since February 6, and if you count all those times that schools have been out, our children have been out. As a matter of fact, if you drive the streets of Georgetown and elsewhere, you will see our learners, who are supposed to be at school, they are engaged at washbays and several other places. and that again is another aspect we will have to look at because that is child labour. And so, we initiated this,” McDonald said. 

The Chief Education Officer, Saddam Hussain, when approached by News Source declined to comment on today’s meeting. 

The two sides have not set any date for their next meeting, as the strike action continues.

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