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Guyana: Government, union hold talks amid reports of another strike by teachers


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Teachers on strike earlier this year ( File Photo)

(CMC) – The Guyana government Monday reportedly made a new offer to teachers who earlier this year embarked on industrial action over increased salaries.

General Secretary of the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU), Coretta Mc Donald, told reporters that the union officials met with President David Granger on Monday and that new proposals for a salary increase and adjusting salary scales were made.

While she did not elaborate on the new initiatives, Mc Donald said the union would be considering the new proposals made by the government with the union expected to give a response by Wednesday.

“At the meeting today there were some proposals thrown on the table but the GTU has some more consultations to do and we still need to do some tidying up on both sides…

“So we are going to meet again very soon to resolve those issues that have not been resolved so that our teachers can start smiling maybe at the end of this month, maybe in November but most likely in December,” said Mc Donald.

The teachers had gone in September, disrupting the new academic year.

They were supporting the GTU demand for a 40 per cent pay hike for 2016 and five per cent annually from 2017 to 2020. The government said then it would cost the state four billion dollars (One Guyana dollar=US$0.004 cents) if it is to meet the GTU demands and instead offered GUY$700 million to cover across the board increases and GUY$200 million to cover debunching.

Granger had called the meeting on Monday amid reports that the GTU had started mobilising members to embark on another strike, this time to press demands for the appointment of a mutually acceptable Chairman of the three-member Arbitration Panel.

The government had earlier announced that it had appointed United states-based Guyanese academic, Professor Dr. Leyland Lucas, to chair the arbitration panel into the wage dispute with teachers.

Minister within the Ministry of Social Protection, with responsibility for Labour, Keith Scott, described Lucas as “above board” and opined that he is the right person to settle the disagreement between the two parties.

“We have been able to choose somebody that will be acceptable to not only the two bodies, but to all of Guyana,” Scott said.

But Mc Donald was non-committal as to any consideration of a withdrawal of the arbitration process would depend on whether the union accepts government’s latest proposals.

“We have not reached that stage as yet because as we said there are offers being thrown on the table so if those offers are being bought into then we will have all of those letters sent out there rescinded.

“Those are the fineries that we have to work out between today and Wednesday. Working them out will say to us whether we go arbitration or we stick with the new offers on the table,” she added.

Granger was accompanied to the talks by a delegation that included Education Minister Nicolette Henry and the Chief Education Officer, Marcel Hutson and Mc Donald said that she remains optimistic that with the intervention of the head of state, an agreement could be reached beneficial to all parties.

“The situation at this time is different. I think both sides have looked at what each other is offering. We are on the road to one mutual respect was shown which was one of the issues that was lacking or one of the main ingredient that was lacking and that is now on the table again and with that being on the table I think we are heading in the right direction but let me say to you arbitration is not off the table,” she told reporters.

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