The teaching fraternity is looking forward to better opportunities coming their way as a result of the recently signed fringe benefits agreement between their bargaining agent and the Government of Grenada.
The top brass of the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT), last week Tuesday updated members of the media on the fringe benefits and collective agreement reached with the Keith Mitchell-led administration on December 29th 2016.
President of the union, Lydon Lewis announced that both parties have agreed to a termination allowance for teachers.
Lewis said any teacher who would have served the profession for two years or more, and upon leaving the system if there is no opportunity for further employment, he will receive a termination allowance of one week salary for the number of years served.
However, in the event of returning into the system, there is the option of repaying the money given to them or they can treat their return as being a new appointment.
Another aspect of the agreement is that an additional ten days per year leave for teachers to conduct urgent private matters.
In the face of charges of “sell-out” to the Mitchell government on the negotiations, Lewis said that the union has a history of signing agreements that are very pro-teachers, and always work in the best interest of its members.
“This agreement is no less than what we would have signed over the previous years,” he said.
The GUT President announced that the union has declared 2017 as the “Year Of Pension” and intends to focus 80 percent of its attention on the issue of pension for its members.
“Now that we’ve gotten the salary negotiation out of the way… we turn our attention now to the issue of pension because all of us… will be affected. All of us could go home after 27 years,” he said.
Lewis referred to the pension issue as important as it is intended to guarantee that teachers upon retirement do not have to stretch out a hat or go on social media asking for money to pay their bills.
GUT also disclosed at the press briefing that with effect from the end of January, a batch of approximately 100 teachers will receive appointment letters to the public service.
Second Deputy-President General of the union, Finley “Scholar” Jeffrey indicated that a preliminary list which will be assessed, has already been submitted to the Ministry of Education for appointment.
“I think, if anything else, this was a key component of our negotiations,” he said.
According to Jeffrey, the current national calypso monarch of the country, it has also agreed in the negotiations with government that the regularisation of teachers will be an ongoing exercise until all the positions in the system are filled.
The GUT negotiating team has also been able to secure an incentive allowance for its members who have attained a Master’s Degree in the range of $225.00 to $300.00 per month.
Jeffrey explained that once a teacher has a Master’s Degree, he will receive one increment and that all teachers will get a monthly increment as of the end of January.
The GUT official also spoke of the reinstatement of the extra-duty allowance for Principals, Vice-Principals, and Heads of Departments which was cut some years ago.
Jeffrey disclosed that Principals of Secondary Schools will be reinstated to $150.00 from $130.00, and Principals of Primary Schools will move from $90.00 to $130.00.
Vice-Principals of Secondary Schools are to receive $130.00 instead of the $50.00, while their counterparts at the primary level will now move from $50.00 to $100.00.
Heads of Departments of secondary and primary schools who are currently receiving $50.00 as their allowance will move to $100.00.
Teachers-in-charge of unattached pre-schools who were previously receiving $50.00 will now take home $100.00.
A new category of teachers-in-charge of prep-schools that are attached to primary schools will now be getting $75.00.
The GUT negotiating team was also able to secure an increase in the monthly subvention for both primary and secondary schools from the Ministry of Education to assist with the daily functioning of their current expenditure.
Primary schools receive $300.00 monthly, while the sum for secondary schools is based on the number of students enrolled in the institution.
However, Jeffrey said both the Ministries of Education and Finance will conduct an assessment of what sum of money should be provided to the various schools.
“We have some schools with small populations, some schools with large populations, and it would not be fair to be giving all schools one thing across the board,” he added.
Speaking on some of the articles regarding the collective agreement was First Deputy-President General, Davis Adams who dealt specifically with the agreement relating to the establishment of continuous professional development for teachers.
According to Adams, within the first quarter of this year, a joint oversight committee comprising officials of GUT, the Ministry of Education, the Human Resource Development, and the Department of Public Administration will determine the areas for continuous professional development of teachers, and to also look at the priority areas.
Scholarship for teachers is to be increased by one hundred percent which means ten teachers will benefit each year in order to help improve the profession.
Adams said technology was one area for discussion in order to ensure the success of the continuous professional development.
He said not all schools are technology resourced and it was agreed that the implementation of laptop computers for schools will be done.
As part of its 2013 election campaign promises, the New National Party (NNP) of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell had promised to provide students with tablets and laptop computers but it never materialised.
Adams believes that GUT has signed a “complete package that is in the best interest of the teachers,” and is proud to let the general public know that they believe they have done the best for the teaching profession.