Govt’s rejection of salary increases…as teachers go on strike from August 27The Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) has confirmed that, following failed talks between the union and a Government team on Thursday, teachers will go on strike for two weeks’ duration, beginning from August 27. This strike that might even be accompanied by protests.Making this pronouncement was GTU President Mark Lyte, who had led negotiations on the teachers’ behalf. Out of eight proposals made by GTU on salaries’ issues, no agreement could be reached on a single one. With the collapse of these talks, Lyte confirmed on Friday during an interview, strike action is imminent.“Definitely! Strike action is on the cards. Me, vice-presidents and the executives were yesterday (Thursday) given a directive by the membership that we needed to take strike action. So we are in the process of preparing the letters to indicate to the minister and the ministries, especially the Ministry of Labour, that we will take strike action from August 27.”Lyte expressed disappointment that matters have had to reach this stage. HeGTU President Mark Lyterecalled that the union had threatened strike action before, and was dissuaded from this course of action out of a willingness to work out a solution.“I’m extremely disappointed. Having threatened before that we would take strike action, the President intervened and set up a task force. We expected they had a good intention, but looking at the counter-proposals, there was no intention; I think the whole thing was to delay the process. There’s nothing there for our teachers to really say that they have waited for. So I think it’s a very disrespectful approach,” Lyte declared.“And we were taken aback by the fact that these are the people who say they love our teachers, and our teachers are special. And this is what you do? I think our teachers have reached a stage where they don’t want to hear any further discussion, they want people to bring figures they can accept.”According to Lyte, channels of communication would be opened between the GTU and Government, and it is now up to the coalition Government to decide what they will do.Lyte made it clear that the GTU would not defer its strike unless a tangible offer is made. He added there is a possibility GTU two weeks’ strike can be further extended, depending on the Government’s next move… And nor is he ruling out protest action.The meetingA number of requests from the GTU, including a long awaited retroactive increase in salaries across the board and increases in keeping with improved qualifications, were rejected by the Government at the meeting.The meeting featured Education and Social Protection Ministers Nicolette Henry and Amna Ally, as well as Junior Minister Keith Scott and GTU President Mark Lyte. Their discussions related to the proposals from a joint task force that President David Granger had himself ordered into the teachers’ plight last year.Even though that task force had the input of Government, it was indicated to teachers on Thursday, a specialist would have to be contracted to determine the increases.In addition, the teachers were bluntly told that instead of the specific increases ranging from 40 per cent in 2016 to 50 per cent in 2020, a ball figure would be used based on the current salary scale.When it comes to debunching payments, which is payment based on years of service, the GTU requested payments on the scales of, and retroactive from, the 2011 agreement. Instead, the Government proposed another ball park figure for the new school year of 2018 to 2019.“The Guyana Teachers’ Union disagreed on this counter-proposal, stating the amount allocated did not cater for the years signed and agreed to previously by the Government,” a release from the ministry said. “They noted that previous Permanent Secretary signed an agreement to honour the de- bunching payment from 2011.”A request for a $5,000 monthly emotional, stress and risk allowance was met by the Government urging a “holistic approach”. As such, the Government team stated that it cannot be considered at this time, taking into account the wider public service. A similar response met requests for mileage and maintenance allowances for top school officials. A request for all teachers to receive double pay in December had to be withdrawn.