Teachers get ready to shut down schools

first_imgPlanned strike– Union pushes for mass protestBy Shemuel FanfairTeachers on Monday expressed great frustration over their current wages and are demanding that union members let their voices be heard on the streets come September 3; the day public schools are scheduled to reopen. This call was made at a meeting held at the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) headquarters in Woolford Avenue, Thomas Lands, Georgetown, where Union executives reiterated their position that the August 27 strike action remains in place. Members heard that teachers on the Essequibo Coast, Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam); Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) and in Linden, Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) are ready to shut down schools when the opening day arrives.“Come September 3, 2018, we teachers need to be somewhere because theThe Guyana Teachers Union, Woolford Avenue headquarters was packed to capacity where many teachers called for mass protests (Shemuel Fanfair photo)Ministry’s education officials will go out and do their regular follow-up exercises,” one male teacher remarked during the meeting with hundreds of teachers on Monday.“Are we going to turn up to school and not teach or is there a place that we can go and picket and say what we have to say and come out in our numbers and be heard,” another queried of her colleagues.As the session continued, a female shouted that her fellow teachers should gather on the school opening date: “I want us to get our placards and decide where are going and go!” she exclaimed.The teachers came out in a large contingent at the GTU meeting and stridently expressed that they are fully on board with the strike action. Another engagement with teachers was held at Enmore, East Coast Demerara, on Monday afternoon. GTU President Mark Lyte, surrounded by executives, held on to the 40 per cent increase teachers are asking for and said Government’s $700 million ball-park figure would account for 2018 only. He said too that the GTU wants a 2016-2020GTU Mark Lyte makes a point to teachers at Enmore, East Coast Demerara (Dexter Ceres photo)deal which comes despite Government’s position that it could only give what it can afford.“We have not heard from the President, but we are still hoping to hear from [him] because he said, ‘I’m going to put a task force together’… the task force recommended on top of the 2015 salary, 40 per cent; not any ball-park figure,” the union President expressed.The teachers shouted a unified “no!” when President Lyte asked them if they could be replaced by substitutes. This was in reference to Education Minister Nicolette Henry indicating that arrangements are in place should the strike situations become extensive. She cited an Internal Standard Operational Procedure (SoP), which speaks to measures Government would implement if teachers are absent, such as temporary workers to fill the gaps. However, one union representative, Stacy Benjamin questioned if such a move would be practical since teachers would often dive into their own pockets to fund classroom materials and towards meals for those who are in need.Some of the teachers while supporting the strike, expressed fear of victimisation and salary cuts but Lyte later on told reporters that he was set to meet with an attorney in this regard as the union seeks to solidify its legal standing. On teacher suggested that the union files a High Court injunction to prevent Government fromAnother section of teachers at the meeting on Mondaycutting salaries as they have a “right to strike”.A popular teacher, “Sir Mars”, in exuberant and vociferous fashion, said he is prepared to “go to the end” to advocate for the teachers’ cause. Mars concurred with Government coalition partner, the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) when it said last week that the Administration going against teachers was tantalum to “political suicide”.Another teacher asked what would happen if the matter goes to arbitration, but the Union representatives pointed out that if this stage is not successful, the matter will be taken to a tribunal. Former Education Minister, Dr Henry Jeffrey told <<<>>> on Saturday that the GTU should request arbitration to help bring the matter to a possible conclusion. Government and the GTU have been talking for three years but those talks broke down last week.Lyte had noted that the GTU outright rejected Government’s request for teachers to agree to a debunching payoff of $200 million for 2018/19. He said the Union similarly rejected the $700 million cap that was placed on salary increases; Government also wants the clothing allowance to remains at $8000, a figure which Lyte said was given in 2011. He said too that for Whitley Council Leave, teachers still have to wait four years before getting their one month off even though the GTU appealed for three years.The Union has 7000 members but the union President at the time when reporters questioned him on Monday could not confirm if the Union could pay the teachers’ salaries if Government were to make deductions for absenteeism. The GTU has however invited non-unionised members to take part in the industrial action.last_img

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