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In a release, the Education Ministry expressed the hope that this process is done in a timely manner to ensure that teachers receive their additional pay for the Christmas holidays.
"The Education Ministry stand ready to work with the Union towards a reasonable solution to the current impasse", the release stated. However, the Union is maintaining its argument that no teacher should be receiving a salary that is below the minimum wage being offered to the traditional workers in the public service, which amounts to $21,000 per month.
What the Union is pressing for is a 15 per cent across-the-board increase and had originally proposed a three-year agreement, which requested a 50 to 60 per cent increase in salaries for 2002. In addition, the Government based increases in 2003 and 2004 on the rate of inflation, the growth of the economy and revenue collection. Government in the meantime affirms that in the final analysis, wages and salaries must be based upon the national income.
However, the Education Ministry is claiming that the underlying principle for the request made by the Union, is that the teachers' have a special case and they should be paid a living wage. The Ministry however is firm in its belief that while teachers are indeed a special case, there are other categories of workers, who are also making special claims.
The Union is also claiming that since the announcement of the 1999 Public Service Arbitration award, teachers were disadvantaged.
"Teachers and the public servants covered by the Public Service Commission (PSC) are in different bargaining units and the outcome of the negotiations can be different. The Government, however, is prepared to deal with the situation where qualified persons are disadvantaged," the Education release said.
The Government has also pointed out that because of Guyana's comparatively larger infrastructure deficit, a different balance has to be struck between capital spending and salaries. "The Ministry had proposed that beginning in 2002, salaries should be based on the rate of inflation and the growth of the economy. These efforts continue as Government aims to bring teachers' salaries within 80 per cent of that paid for similar qualifications in the general private sector. Annual increments should be based upon the growth factor of the above formula".
The breakdown in negotiations between the Government and Union follows Government's announcement of a 5 per cent for public servants. The increases would be paid retroactively from January of this year and represented a 2 per cent increase from Government's original offer of three per cent.
Meanwhile, the Guyana Teachersí Union (GTU) in a release on the issue referred to three meetings between the Union and the Education Ministry, held on November 21, November 26 and November 27, respectively.
According to the release, the Union at the meeting on Wednesday last, again queried of the Ministryís offer to teachers, and after receiving a negative response, re-proposed that all teachers below the minimum public service salary be brought up to par.
Also, that all other teachers be given a 15 per cent increase across the board, a position taken after considering the Minister of Educationís concern about the effect of a 50 or 60 per cent increase on the economy.
But the GTU said, the proposal was rejected and it was not until after the GTU delegation was about to leave that the offer of five per cent across the Board was made. It was at this stage the GTU said it signaled its intention to move to conciliation.
The GTU is also contending that at no stage during the negotiations was an offer of $60M and five per cent across the board made by the Ministry.