GTU: Frustration resulting from teacher wage impasse
by Chamanlall Naipaul
Guyana Chronicle
October 18, 2003

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THE prolonged salary dispute between the Guyana Teachers Union and the Ministry of Education has led to frustration among teachers and, consequently, to many deciding to migrate.

First Vice-president of the GTU, Philip Roberts, told the Chronicle that failure to reach a speedy resolution of the dispute has led to disenchantment among teachers who he alleged are leaving at the rate of about 20 per month, adding that recently 12 lecturers from the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) resigned.

Nevertheless, Roberts said that there are those who have decided to remain and make a meaningful contribution to the educational process being confident that sometime in the future there would be the realization of the importance of the teacher to national development.

He pointed out that the union is aware of the benchmarks and ceiling levels the international financial institutions have imposed with respect to salary increases.

However, Roberts indicated that the union's requests for increased remuneration for teachers are based on the prices of the prevailing market, including the current rate of inflation.

The union he said is contending that a teacher cannot be as productive in a situation where his mind is constantly occupied with trying desperately to fulfill financial commitments.

Roberts noted that the GTU has been flexible and reasonable in negotiations pointing out that it reduced its original demands significantly. In addition, he said the union is of the view teachers welfare could also be bolstered by non-monetary incentives like the provision of low-cost house lots and similar incentives. He disclosed, however, that the Ministry of Housing and Water has reneged on its promise to give priority to teachers in the allocation of house lots, giving the explanation that many associations have approached it for priority allocation and it cannot fulfill all those requests, as such teachers would have to go through the normal procedure to obtain house lots.

Roberts said that in St. Vincent the Prime Minister has guaranteed a house lot to teachers and facilitating them with a recommendation to the banks to get a 30-year mortgage finance package to build their houses.