Granger could be behind gridlock between Govt, GTU – Jagdeo

first_img…urges President to get directly involved to end stalemateWith several months already passed and countless meetings held, there is still no clear indication as to when negotiations for the new multi-year agreement for teachers will be resolved.Commentators and social activists have assumed that the process is being deliberately prolonged, and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo believes that this might have to do with President David Granger.Jagdeo said recently that it was the President who established a High Level Task Force, but later rejected its report after it agreed with the majority of the Guyana Teachers Union’s demands.The establishment of the Task Force, which comprised Government and Union representatives, followed on the heels of threats of strike action from the GTU.The Task Force had recommended that Government consider granting GTU’s request for a 40 per cent increase on 2015 salaries. The recommendations proposed that the 40 per cent increase serve as a base, and a five per cent incremental increase for each remaining year of the agreement.This recommendation represents a compromise as the Union originally requested a 40 per cent increase in 2016, a 45 per cent increase in 2017, and a 50 per cent increase in 2018, 2019 and 2020.But Government later came out raising concerns about the affordability of the proposals, which could cost in excess of $4 billion for the teaching service and $10 billion if extended to the rest of the public sector.Teachers were instead offered a $700 million ballpark figure for 2018 salary increases. This was rejected and the GTU decided to engage in strike action beginning in the schools’ pre-term on August 27, 2018.The Opposition Leader noted that it was the President who deemed the proposal made by the Task Force to be unacceptable, and for this reason, he believes that the President is responsible for the stalemate.He said, “The President promised a Task Force of senior Government officials and then they come back to the President and he says that the report is not acceptable…he may very well be behind this.”President David GrangerJagdeo has called for the President to get directly involved in the process, more so because the GTU and the Department of Labour have also reached an impasse. He said the issue could get out of hand, if the President did not intervene and bring some calm to the situation.“I pleaded with the President to get involved directly, people weren’t happy when I said that he should do something about the mouth of Keith Scott, but really I was just expressing a similar frustration that the teachers are experiencing,” he said. Jagdeo believes Minister Scott has made the situation worse.ConfrontationThe former Head of State also believes that the GTU met with the Department of Labour and went back to the table in good faith, only now to be faced again with unilateral actions on the part of Government.“It seems as though the Government is encouraging, baiting the teachers with their language, threatening them to lock people up, etc. It’s like they want a confrontation with the teachers and then the Minister will go around at some schools and try to get the parents to blame the teachers again,” Jagdeo said.The GTU recently called on its members to be on standby as it gears up for another round of strike action; this time on a larger scale, if the imposed Chairman for the arbitration panel to settle the wages dispute between Government and the Union is not withdrawn.Dr Leyland Lucas of the University of Guyana was named arbitrator last week and according to the GTU, it did not agree to the nomination, but rather Lucas was imposed by the Department of Labour.According to the Union, it is also prepared to take the Education Ministry, and more so, the Government to court if any action is taken against teachers who will be going on strike.GTU President Mark Lyte said the Union has not taken lightly the threat by the Education Ministry to penalise teachers who are prepared to strike. His statement was in reference to the threat issued by the Ministry, after the Union announced its plans to head to industrial action for a second time.Since 2015, the Union has attempted to negotiate a multi-year salary and non-salary benefit package with the David Granger-led coalition Government but negotiations have dragged on.The last nationwide teachers’ strike took effect on August 27 during the schools’ pre-term activities and lasted for a little under two weeks, as the Ministry gave into the pressure and agreed to arbitration on September 6. Following the agreement to end the strike, teachers returned to work.The terms signed on to by the parties to the dispute for resumption indicated that there would be no victimisation by either side, no loss of pay and seniority, and the status quo ante, that is, the conditions in relation to wages, salaries and non-salary benefits which existed before the strike would prevail.Most importantly, the terms indicate that within 24 hours after full resumption, the parties would meet to determine the terms of reference for the arbitration panel, as guided by the 1990 Memorandum of Agreement between the Education Ministry and the GTU. (Samuel Sukhnandan)last_img

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