Hundreds of teachers from across Regions Four and Six did not show up for school on Wednesday and Thursday as the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) initiated industrial action, intended to heap pressure on the Government to begin negotiation on the proposed multi-year agreement submitted by the union three years ago.
Since August 2020, the Guyana Teachers’ Union has repeatedly submitted its proposal to the Government on 13 critical areas, which include salaries, gratuity, duty free concession, hinterland benefits and grants.
Today, GTU President, Mark Lyte told reporters that teachers are simply “fed-up”, and have taken a decision to withhold their services by collectively utilizing their Manager’s Sick Leave and Urgent Private Affairs’ Concession.
“As of yesterday, we had actions taken by different branches. Yesterday, the Canje Branch, which is located on the Corentyne Coast decided that they were going to be absent from work for the day, and so, over 70% of the teachers in Canje, did not report for work. Today, we have teachers in the Lower Corentyne area, teachers in New Amsterdam Branch, teachers in the South Georgetown Branch, and teachers in the Buxton Branch, who have not reported for duty,” Lyte told reporters during a press conference at GTU’s Woolford Avenue Head Office.
He said in some cases, more than 90% of the teachers were a no show.
“Reports coming out of New Amsterdam, of 468 teachers, 202 are absent, gives us an absent rate of 57%. Coming out of Canje, like I said, yesterday, there were about 70% absent for the day. In the Lower Corentyne area, we are still compiling the details but just to highlight three schools in the area – Corentyne Comprehensive with a staff of 57, 52 teachers are absent. In the Lower Corentyne Secondary School, with a staff of 45, 36 teachers are absent, and at the Port Mourant Secondary School, where I am the principal, of a staff of 52, 51 are absent,” he detailed.
He said more schools across the Education Districts are likely to be affected if the Government fails to heed to the calls for negotiations to begin.
Since its return to Office, the PPP Civic Government has offered various categories of teachers’ duty-free concessions and scholarships, while some schools have been offered financial grants.
But the GTU President said one of the most important issues facing teachers across the country relates to their salaries.
The GTU has proposed an across-the-board increase in salary of 25% for 2019, and 20% each for every other year – 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023-to be granted to all categories of teachers.
“I think majorly we would like to see, and which affects all teachers across the board, has to do with salary increases. So, outside of those non-salaried matters, we believe that when teachers hit the supermarket or Stabroek or Bourda Market, its what they are earning that will matter. And there has been no discussion on that,” the GTU President said.
Both President Irfaan Ali and the Minister of Education Priya Manickchand said consultations on salary and non-salaries issues will begin following the President’s return from the United Nations General Assembly in New York. However, there has been no clear indication as to whether government is prepared to negotiate with the Union.
Instead, the President has repeatedly said that he will go directly to the teachers.
But GTU First Vice President, Mariska Williams today made it clear that there will be no boycotting of the Union.
“The Guyana Teachers’ Union will remain the model union in Guyana. Secondly, I wish to state that our membership will not tolerate union busting. When the sugar workers received their comprehensive package, when the nurses received their comprehensive package, when the police officers received their comprehensive package, nobody went to speak to them directly, it was given to them. And as a union, this union, the Guyana Teachers’ Union, our membership will not tolerate it,” Williams said.
The union official said all consultations must be done through the union, and the union leaders have warned that should the Government fail to heed to their demands, the industrial action would be intensified