Teachers to get wage hikes between 5% to 15%
Union still pressing for arbitration
December 20, 2002
The Education Ministry yesterday announced a five to 15 percent salary hike for teachers following a deadlock with the Guyana Teachers' Union (GTU) at the conciliation stage.
The ministry said it has agreed to a 15% increase for junior teachers and teacher aides; 11% for acting teachers; 8% for pupil teachers, temporary qualified and unqualified teachers; and 5% to all other categories of educators.
The two parties had reached a deadlock on salary negotiations late last month and had moved to conciliation. On Monday, those talks broke down and the union indicated its intention to proceed to arbitration.
But in a press release issued shortly after 1 pm yesterday, the Ministry of Education stated that "arising out of the deadlock reached at conciliation, and based on advice given by the Labour Ministry that the Collective Labour Agreement between the Ministry and the Guyana Teachers' Union does not bind either party to arbitration, the Ministry of Education has agreed to salary increases ranging from 15 to five percent for teachers."
The ministry said it is hoped that the teachers will receive their payout in time for the Christmas holidays.
"Over 4,000 of the lowest paid teachers will receive retroactive payments averaging about $24,000. The total payout is approximately $277M annually," the ministry said.
According to the statement, the ministry decided to effect payments only after the union failed to initiate arbitration proceedings as indicated at the conciliation meeting on Monday.
"At that meeting, the union indicated its intention to initiate arbitration proceedings but failed to respond to a request for a meeting by the Labour Ministry [yesterday]," the ministry stated. But when contacted at 3 pm yesterday, a GTU official told Stabroek News that no such request was made for a meeting yesterday and, also, that up to that time, the ministry had not yet contacted the union about the increases.
"We knew nothing about the meeting," the union executive told this newspaper.
The other reasons the ministry put forward for the payout to teachers was that "it has exhausted the financial resources available to it at the negotiations with the union; [that they had considered] the numerous requests by teachers for retroactive payments; and [were] advised by the Ministry of Labour that payments could be effected without breaching the Collective Labour Agreement."
The GTU said that it was worrying that the Chief Labour Officer (CLO) Mohammed Akeel could have given such advice to the Ministry of Education, but had not sought to tell the union anything.
The "CLO has not told us anything as yet...[And] we cannot tell the Ministry don't pay the teachers and we cannot tell the teachers not to accept the money...Arbitration talks are still proceeding because, we knew nothing of [the ministry's arrangement]." Akeel could not be reached yesterday for comment. According to the official, the only notice that was given the union was that of a meeting today at the Labour Ministry. That was done via the telephone yesterday. The officials said someone claiming to be a representative of the CLO informed the GTU yesterday that their officials are to meet with Akeel and officials of the Ministry of Education at the Labour Ministry at 8:30 am today.
"We were just told to return to meet with the Chief Labour Officer," the official told Stabroek News.
The first round of wage 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 had subsequently stated that it had offered a five percent increase as well as 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 has since denied that such an offer was ever made.
As a result, the parties moved to conciliation but talks broke down at the second meeting on Monday.
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 that were based on the rate of inflation, the growth of the economy and government's revenue collection. (Kim Lucas)