Teachers wages
'Is 3% final offer?' -ministry asked to clarify
Stabroek News
June 13, 2004

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The Chief Labour Officer (CLO) in the Ministry of Labour has directed the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education to ask his principals whether the 3% salary increase offer to teachers for this year is the ministry's final offer.

President of the Guyana Teachers' Union (GTU), Avril Crawford told Stabroek News that the CLO asked Perma-nent Secretary Ganga Persaud to go back to his principals to find this out since the talks have moved from the bilateral level to conciliation and the offer remains the same.

When contacted, Persaud told Stabroek News that he was not at liberty to speak to the media since the talks were at the level of conciliation. He referred this newspaper to the Chief Labour Officer Mohammed Akeel, for his comments. Stabroek News made several calls to the CLO's office Thursday afternoon and Friday, but was unable to contact him.

However, Crawford contended that no restriction on reporting to the media on the issue had been put on either the GTU or the Ministry of Education, which is negotiating on behalf of the government.

She noted that at Thursday's meeting there was present, a two-member television crew from the BBC.

Thursday's meeting was the third held at the level of conciliation, Crawford said, noting that Persaud had not moved from the 3% offer even though the parties had moved from discussions at the bilateral level where the offer had been made and rejected.

The GTU and the ministry are to meet again under the aegis of the CLO on Tuesday when Persaud is expected to say whether the 3% increase proposed by the ministry was government's final offer or not.

About the increases being sought, Crawford said the GTU has taken the economic situation of the country into consideration while at the same time trying to arrive at liveable wages for teachers. As such, she said, the union was seeking the bare minimum in increase for teachers.

At present the GTU is seeking a five per cent increase for untrained teachers; a 10% increase for teachers in the middle-management structure; and a 15% increase for the senior teachers.

She said that the union is holding firm to its proposal that teachers in the lowest category should not be paid below the government's minimum level.

The minimum level, she said, was determined by the minimum salary received in the traditional public service.

She recalled that teachers in the lowest category first received salaries below that of the sweeper/cleaner following the Armstrong Tribunal award for 1999. The salaries of teachers in the lowest category were brought to the same level as the sweeper/cleaners for last year. Prior to 1999, Crawford said teachers in the lowest category received salaries higher than the traditional public service minimum wage.

Crawford said if the GTU were to accept the 3% increase, the salaries of the teachers in the lowest category would once again be taken below the level of the sweeper/cleaner. Public servants have been offered a 5% increase in salaries, which the GPSU has not accepted. (Miranda La Rose)