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Serious progress being made with GTU talks – Dr Jagdeo

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As the government continues talks with the Guyana Teachers Union to bring an end to the ongoing countrywide strike by some teachers, Vice President, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo has said that there has been some “serious progress”.

Speaking at a press conference at the Office of the President on Thursday, the vice president said that the two parties have had several good engagements, and he is hopeful that they will be able to return to the negotiation table. 

Vice President, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

“The ministry and the union have had some recent good engagements, exchange of letters. And I think we’re moving forward and hopefully, we’ll get back to the table. I’ve seen some serious progress being made recently,” he said.

On May 9, teachers in Guyana began a second round of strikes, which sparked talks that started on May 13 and continued until May 14.

Despite the government’s willingness to negotiate teacher compensation increases starting in 2024, the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) insists on retroactive salary hikes from 2019 to 2023. The GTU has sought a 20 per cent compensation before teachers agree to return to work.   However, the Union has hinted that they are willing to negotiate on that time frame.

The initial strike began on February 5, with the teachers lobbying for an increase in wages and several other interventions.

Dr Jagdeo on Thursday reaffirmed the government’s position that it is prepared to work on a multi-year agreement from 2024 with teachers. 

“We said from the beginning we are prepared to have a multiyear agreement from 2024 going forward,” Dr Jagdeo reminded.

He added that the government does not agree with the High Court’s recent ruling in the case, which outlined that teachers should be paid during the time they were on strike.

“We disagree with the judge that there was no collective bargaining. We had a meeting when the union went on strike,” he explained.

He pointed out that talks were still ongoing up to a week before the strike commenced.

“If that ruling stands, any worker now can go on strike and make the argument that we have a court ruling which says that we should be paid for the days we strike striking, whether in the public sector or private sector,” the VP said.

He added that the government has made, and will continue to inject significant investments geared at ensuring better working conditions for teachers and students, and to elevate the education sector.

Last year, President, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali announced $1.9 billion in salary adjustments and duty-free concessions, following engagements with teachers across the country, as well as representatives of the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) and other unions.

Additionally, a suite of measures has been implemented to improve teachers’ working conditions. These include teachers being provided termly with grants to purchase teaching materials, an increase in the stipend for CPCE pre-service trainees from $10000 to $90000, and the implementation of the EMIS system, which will eliminate most aspects of manual record keeping.

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