Teachers wages talks break down
Arbitration next stage

Stabroek News
December 17, 2002

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Conciliation talks between the Guyana Teachers' Union (GTU) and the Ministry of Education broke down yesterday and the two sides are now expected to move to arbitration.

Talks between the GTU and the Education Ministry broke down on November 27, after the union rejected government's five percent across-the-board pay hike for teachers. The Education Ministry is maintaining that it also offered a $60M package to help bring the salaries of teachers at the lowest scale on par with the country's minimum wage. But the union is denying that such an offer was ever made in talks.

As a result, the parties moved to conciliation. But a union official told Stabroek News that the second conciliation meeting yesterday morning ended in deadlock. This newspaper was unable to get a comment from the Education Ministry on the matter.

"We have written to the Chief Labour Officer [Mohamed Akeel] asking for a date for arbitration," the union official told this newspaper during a brief telephone interview. Yesterday's deadlock also means that teachers are unlikely to benefit from a payout for the festive season.

At a press conference before the parties went to conciliation, union officials had appealed to teachers not to be carried away by the holidays and accept a paltry payout. Instead, they urged their members to stand together and fight for better salaries.

GTU President, Sydney Murdock is maintaining that no teacher should receive less than the minimum wage being offered to workers in the traditional public service (around $21,000). The union is also pushing for all other teachers to get a 15 percent, across-the-board increase.

The GTU had initially proposed a three-year agreement, which, in part, asked for a 50 percent to 60 percent increase in salaries for this year, and amounts for 2003 and 2004 to be based on the rate of inflation, the growth of the economy and government's revenue collection.

The union had also written to President Bharrat Jagdeo seeking his intervention in an effort to bring the matter to a speedy resolution, rather than having to go to conciliation and arbitration.

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