PRESS STATEMENT

Ministry of Education Disappointed by Guyana Teacher’s Union Breach of Agreement

(May 15, 2024) -The Ministry of Education is appalled at the recent release from the Guyana Teachers’ Union. Both because of its inaccurate contents as well as its breach of agreement made between the parties not to speak publicly while the matter is being conciliated. The conciliation process was initiated by the Ministry of Education in keeping with the grievance procedure as documented in the 1990 Memorandum of Agreement signed by the MoE and the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU). The Ministry sought to initiate the conciliation process due to the impasse in respect of the timeframe for the new multi-year agreement.

The Ministry of Education (MoE) wishes to make clear the facts surrounding the conciliation process:

1. The conciliation process was initiated by the Ministry of Education in keeping with the grievance procedure as documented in the 1990 Memorandum of Agreement signed by the MoE and the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU). The Ministry sought to initiate the conciliation process due to the impasse in respect of the timeframe for the new multi-year agreement.

2. Both parties attended the meeting on Monday 13th May, 2024 at 10:30 am.

3. The Chief Labour Officer (CLO) chaired the meeting and made specific reference to clause (iv) under Part

4 of the grievance procedure which states that: ‘During the consideration of the matter in dispute under the procedure, there shall be no strike, stoppage of work whether of a partial or general nature, go slow, boycott, picketing, retardation of production or any other interference with the Ministry’s operations, by the Union, nor shall there be any lockout or any other form of interference with the Ministry’s operations, by the Union, nor shall there be any lock out or any other form of interference by the Ministry. Both parties shall endeavour to maintain a state of normal Industrial Relations’ The CLO further cited Section 23 of the Trade Union Recognition Act which requires inter alia both parties to act in good faith and even imposes a criminal sanction for non-compliance. 4. All parties agreed that the issue to be determined is the timeframe which should be considered in relation to a multi-year agreement. As such, the contents of any proposed agreement would not be the subject for discussion.

5. The parties proceeded to discuss the terms of a resumption agreement. Below is the first draft of these terms:

i. There shall be an end of the strike by teachers and full resumption of work by all teachers within 72 hours.

ii. There shall be no victimization by either party.

iii. There shall be no break in service and the status quo ante shall prevail.

iv. Following the full resumption of work by all teachers, conciliation will commence on the timeframe of the proposal submitted by the GTU.

6. The parties deliberated and agreed on:

i. There shall be an end of the strike by teachers and full resumption of work by all teachers within 48 hours.

ii. There shall be no victimization by either party.

iii. There shall be no break in service and the status quo ante shall prevail. Still on the table for discussion at this point were:

iv. Following the full resumption of work by all teachers, conciliation will commence on the timeframe of the proposal submitted by the GTU.

v. The above terms shall be subject to the determination of proceedings before the Court by courts of competent jurisdiction.

The meeting of Monday 13th May, 2024 ended without resolution to numbers iv and v as stated above. The Union stated that they were tired and asked that the meeting be adjourned to Tuesday 14th May, 2024 at 10:30am for determination on iv and v as stated above.

7. Both parties were asked to keep the contents of these ongoing meetings confidential to maintain trust among the parties as well as to show good faith in the conciliation process. The Ministry was optimistic that there would be a signed resumption agreement and that conciliation would commence.

8. On Tuesday 14th May, 2024 both parties were in attendance and the CLO reconvened the meeting. Discussions commenced on the options which were put on the table for number iv. Both parties narrowed it down to two options and the Ministry was hopeful that the agreement would be signed the said day.

9. After a day and a half of negotiations, suddenly the GTU then presented a two-page document dated 13th May, 2024 which included a list of demands to be met before the resumption agreement could be signed. The Ministry was shocked.

10. Among the list of demands were, inter alia:

(a) The Ministry shall make an interim 20% across-the-board payment immediately BEFORE any conciliation regarding timeframe can commence.

(b) That the Minister of Labour be requested to recuse himself from the negotiation process.

(c) That full resumption of duties shall occur and conciliation begin only after these conditions are met.

11. The meeting was adjourned with the next meeting date set for Monday 20th May, 2024 at 1pm.

12. On Wednesday 15th May, the Ministry was appalled to see a release on contents discussed in the meeting. The CLO was explicit on the importance of confidentiality and good faith in these negotiations.

It is now clear, if it weren’t before, that there is no interest on the part of the GTU to engage in conciliation with a view to resolving these issues as is provided for in the grievance procedure in the 1990 Memorandum of Agreement. Nowhere in the world would it be considered normal for negotiations to happen under duress. The GTU’s insistence that an across the board 20% be paid BEFORE any talks can happen is duress. Given the GTU’s many years as a trade union body, they must know that this is unusual, unacceptable, unreasonable and would result in the breakdown in talks.

It is clear then that teachers’ welfare is not the paramount consideration for the Guyana Teachers’ Union. Teachers are being used as pawns in a much larger, politically directed plot. This is destructive and sad.

The Government of Guyana reiterates its commitment to advancing every aspect of the education sector. Teachers are the backbone of this sector and are and will be treated accordingly. To this end, the following have already been implemented in the interest of teachers’ welfare:

1. The correction of all teachers’ salary with effect from September 2020 at a cost of more than $700 million.

2. The granting of a $10,000 allowance to all teachers with a university degree.

3. The granting of a $6,000 allowance to all teachers with a post-graduate diploma.

4. The granting of a $20,000 allowance to all teachers with a master’s degree.

5. The granting of a $30,000 allowance to all teachers with a doctoral degree.

6. The payment of all graduate teachers at the highest level of their respective scale.

7. The increase in the RAI (Remote Area Incentive) from $9,000 and $12,000 per month to $20,000 per month for all hinterland teachers.

8. The provision of more than 3,800 scholarships to teachers (30% of all teachers) to qualify themselves and earn a higher salary.

9. A request to the University of Guyana by the Ministry of Education to offer all education programmes after school hours (which has happened) so that an unlimited number of teachers can attend and become graduate teachers. The quota system to attend UG is no longer applicable.

10. The reduction in the number of records kept by teachers such as:

I. The removal of the Child Development Index Card (CDIC) as a required school document.

II. The removal of the General Scheme of Work as a curriculum document.

III. The removal of the Annual Scheme of Work.

IV. The provision of National Schemes of Work by the Ministry of Education

V. The weekly preparation of lesson plans rather than daily.

11. All trained teachers being eligible to be a Senior Assistant Master/Mistress after 6 years rather than 7 which allows for an additional $20,000 to be added to their salary.

12. The appointment of Heads of Department to Primary-Tops (Secondary Departments in Primary Schools) which allowed for more teachers to be promoted and so earn a higher salary.

13. In addition to the continued issuance of 50 duty-free teachers per year PLUS the granting of a duty-free concession to all senior teachers who have 3 years left to serve and have not received a concession previously.

14. All teachers being provided termly with grants to purchase teaching materials at a cost of $3.1 billion for 2024.

15. All CPCE pre-service trainees being paid $90,000 rather than a $10,000 stipend per month except if a trainee teacher refuses same.

16. The appointment of all teachers who graduated from CPCE in 2023 without signing a contract to serve for 3 years post training. That is, teachers were provided with a salary while in training and free tuition.

17. The Ministry of Education requested the Teaching Service Commission and the School Board Secretariat to do 2 senior promotion cycles per year so that more teachers can be promoted and earn a higher salary.

18. A general waiver letter to allow teachers to travel abroad without collateral. Contracted teachers are the only category of civil servants who can travel abroad without providing collateral.

19. The issuance of one waiver letter to cover the teacher’s contracted period. That is, teachers do not have to get a letter every time they have to travel.

20. The holders of the Technical Teachers’ Certificate as being appointed as Assistant Master/Mistress.

21. The creation of more senior vacancies in nursery, primary and secondary schools so that more teachers can be promoted (2 deputies to large schools; more senior master/mistresses) and earn a higher salary.

22. A reduction in teaching periods for secondary teachers on a step-by-step basis.

23. No head teacher being required to do classroom teaching.

24. The assignment of an assistant teacher to senior teachers in primary and nursery schools.

25. The appointment of floating teachers to schools to reduce the workload and substitute for teachers who are absent in a step-by-step basis.

26. The implementation of the EMIS system will eliminate most aspects of manual record keeping.

27. An Open Day policy which is held centrally and regionally to address teachers’ concerns.

28. The appointment and upgrade of all teachers who attended UG without official release and permission before, during and after the COVID – 19 pandemic.

29. A reduction in the number of teaching practice for CPCE teachers from 12 to 6.

30. The training of more than 5,500 teachers by 2025 who will all earn a higher salary on graduation.

31. The institution of a digitalized senior promotion process.

32. A simplification in the Teacher Upgrade Process after improved qualifications.

33. The substitution of the head teachers’ monthly report with a reduced digital version.

34. A waiver for the issuance of the permanent trained teachers’ certificate.

35. The placement of guidance and counselling officers in secondary schools to assist with the disruptive behaviour of students.

36. The continuous placement of data entry clerks in each school to assist with digital record keeping.

37. The introduction of a Teacher Support Unit within the Ministry of Education.

38. The payment for all degree programmes completed at UG. Previously, only education programmes and a few others were paid for.

39. The employment of more than 6,000 new teachers from September 2020 to December 2023.

The President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana has made clear and open his intention to treat fairly and equitably with the teachers of this country in the shortest time possible.

 

 

 

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