GTU now wants formal invitation from Education Ministry before ending strike

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Some teachers on the protest line

President of the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU), Mark Lyte, has informed that the current strike by teachers for wage increases will be extended into the new week.

The GTU had initially stated that countrywide protest actions would last for two weeks, culminating on February 16. However, during a live video on Friday, it was announced that the strike would continue on Monday, and until the Education Ministry agrees to a meaningful meeting, where the terms of resumption can be ventilated.

GTU President Mark Lyte

A letter, dated February 9, 2024, has been sent by the GTU to Permanent Secretary of the Education Ministry, Shannielle Hoosein-Outar, indicating that the GTU is ready to recommence talks; but GTU President Mark Lyte has said that in order for there to be engagement, a formal response is needed from the Education Ministry.

“We are going to be outside on Monday, Tuesday because the strike continues…We have written the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, indicating from the get-go that we are ready to end the strike and have dialogue, (provided) that the Government comes to the table specific to our financial matters formally. If we write you, it is your obligation and duty to write us in return. We are not going to accept a verbal invitation for any meeting,” the GTU President has expressed.

At his Thursday press conference, Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo indicated that the Education Ministry is responsible for all engagements with the Union.

In response, Lyte called on the MoE to set timelines for bringing the impasse to a closure.

“If that is the case, then all we have to do is engage the Ministry of Education to deal with our financial matters. The responsibility now is in the hands of the Minister of Education and her team to invite the union. Now that we have gotten the greenlight, respond to our letter formally…and let us set timelines for the implementation of salary increases for teachers,” he said.

The Vice President disclosed this week that spending on wages and salaries for teachers under the current People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government has dramatically increased over the past four years. According to Jagdeo, the wages and salary bill for teachers has significantly gone up under the PPP/C Administration.

In 2019, wages and salaries for teachers amounted to some $24.4 billion; and by 2023, this amount had grown to $39.4 billion – an increase of $15 billion, or 61.4 per cent, he disclosed. Likewise, the budgetary allocation for the education sector this year is $135 billion – an $83 billion or 162 per cent increase from the $51.4 billion it received in 2019.

This, according to the Vice President, is more investment than the previous A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition Government had made during its five years in office.

The GTU has made 41 demands in a multi-year agreement it proposed to the Education Ministry; 25 of those requests have since been fulfilled. Of the 16 remaining proposals, two are specifically for the benefit of only GTU and its executive members, while two others are contrary to the laws of Guyana, and the other 12 are currently under consideration, the Vice President has disclosed.

In fact, it has been explained that the MoE had an engagement with the GTU on this matter only last month, and the two entities were slated to meet again this month; but the GTU went ahead with hosting the strike action, which Government has labelled as illegal and politically driven.

As such, the Education Ministry has announced that it would not be paying those teachers who are on strike.