Jeffrey insists he offered $60M
By Kim Lucas
Stabroek News
November 30, 2002

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Minister of Education, Dr Henry Jeffrey insists he offered disadvantaged teachers $60M during pay talks with the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) despite their claims otherwise.

At a press briefing yesterday, Jeffrey said a strategic relationship must be based upon a decent level of trust and the latter does not obtain where partners hold contradictory views of what has taken place.

“On the first day of discussion on the union’s three-year plan, it requested to know our proposal to deal with the `disadvantaged’ teachers. My reply was, `about $60M’. The union representatives may have forgotten or may have misconstrued what was said, but $60M was mentioned,” Jeffrey told reporters at the NCERD studio in Kingston.

When talks between the two sides broke down on Wednesday, the ministry issued a statement saying that it had offered a 5% across-the-board pay increase for teachers, as well as $60M to deal with persons qualified to be teachers, but who were comparatively badly paid.

But on Thursday the union called a press conference to say that at no time did the Education Ministry throw out the $60M offer. That report yesterday prompted Jeffrey’s categorical denial of the union’s claim.

“There were two days of negotiations...On the Monday we mentioned the $60M and on the Wednesday we mentioned the five percent,” the minister stressed. Repeated efforts to reach GTU President Sydney Murdock for a comment on this statement proved futile yesterday. Jeffrey reiterated yesterday that since 2001, the Ministry of Education and the GTU have agreed to form a strategic alliance to help in improving the education process, including looking after the interests of teachers.

“This was and, to some extent, still remains unfamiliar territory for both the union and the ministry. As a result, there have been many ups and downs.

Nonetheless, there have also been some improvements,” the Education Minister stated.

He added that there have been regular, almost monthly, meetings at the highest level of the ministry that focus on union concerns.

“The union has representation on our major internal committees. The union has been intimately involved in crafting our strategic plan, recent international programmes and in reviewing the old ones.

Even our response to the union’s three-year salary proposals and our subsequent discussions were formulated to allow us to develop a united approach to the wages and conditions of service issue,” the minister said.

Salary negotiations between the union and government broke down on Wednesday morning, prompting the union to ask for conciliation.

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