…says it will not be “bullied”, arbitration “best bet”The Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) will go ahead with its planned countrywide strike, with teachers expected to take to the streets after Government failed to meet their demand of a 40 per cent salary increase.President of GTU, Mark Lyte, told Guyana Times on Sunday that since there was no contact from Government since last Thursday, the strike will go on as planned.“The strike will continue until further notice,” he stated, but added that the Union is always open for discussion. Teachers are seeking increases of 40 per cent under a multi-year arrangement up to 2020. However, Government has maintained that it just cannot afford this proposal, offering a 2018-2019 pay off.A third round of conciliation between the Education Ministry and the GTU on Thursday last ended again in impasse, as both parties refuse to budge on their position. At this point in time, Lyte said the Union feels arbitration might be the bestPresident David Grangeroption going forward.“We think arbitration is the best bet; we are open for other options but none has been put forward by Government. But we are not going to be bullied,” insisted the GTU President.Last week during a press conference, President David Granger said the countrywide strike by the Union is premature as he urged that there be full mediation and possibly arbitration before such extreme action is taken.“We feel that a strike is an extreme measure and it should only be applied as a last resort. Before we reach to the stage of a strike, there should be some form of mediation and if mediation fails, we can go to arbitration. But I think it’s premature to speak of a strike at this stage [when] we are still, on the Government side, aiming at mediation. I do not believe mediation has failed,” he told reporters.Nevertheless, the Head of State said his Government is actively searching for fresh sources of funding to satisfy teachers’ needs.Meanwhile, the Social Protection Ministry through its Labour Department has been overseeing the so far failed negotiations between the Education Ministry and the GTU. However, the Union had earlier expressed no confidence in this labour team since it comprised Government officers who were advocating on the Education Ministry’s behalf.The GTU’s view has worsened after it was reported in a local newspaper that Labour Minister Keith Scott had allegedly called the striking teachers “uncaring” and “selfish”. In response to this statement, Lyte posited that it just reaffirms the Union’s position.“It confirms our position on the [Social Protection Ministry], it confirms that we can’t trust them and that the Ministry is compromised,” the GTU President asserted.Even as the GTU proceeds with its planned countrywide strike, the Education Ministry in the meantime has devised a ‘contingency plan’ which will see the striking teachers being replaced in classrooms with recent Cyril Potter College Education (CPCE) graduates, trainees and retired teachers. In fact, the Education Ministry has issued an “urgent” notice inviting substitute teachers for Georgetown.However, former CPCE lecturer and Mathematics teacher, Tamashwar Boodhoo has stated that this move by Government could run against stipulations. “Someone has not done their homework and provide poor advice to this poor lady. Trainee teachers cannot take school registers. The law is clear you must be employed by the TSC (Teaching Service Commission) or the school board or the Ministry of Education in order to do take attendance in school,” Boodhoo noted.He pointed out that a register is a legal document that can be used in the courts and that there are guidelines that govern the marking of attendance registers. He further claimed that trainee teachers are “not allowed to make daily log entries in the school log book” adding that retired teachers are similarly prohibited unless they are issued contracts.Boodhoo stressed that “there is nothing in the training manual” that allows for first-year trainee unsupervised practice in the classroom. “I am disappointed that the CPCE administration agrees to put the trainees in the classroom unsupervised. It was the same administration that had trainees repeat classroom practices because of unsupervised practicum,” he pointed out.