From the first look, it can lead to a misleading conclusion due to the gross inaccuracies of the information posited by my very emotional and irate colleague. I do forgive her, for it is indeed understandable that out of emotions and misinformation, irresponsible and uninformed comments are most times uttered from individuals who are intelligent.
It is instructive that from the outset, I establish my first point and I hope it is made very pellucid – that I firmly believe, that any union that represents workers has a legal right and obligation to engage in any form of industrial action.
My colleague is right in making it known that I was the chairman of Upper Demerara Upper Berbice arm of the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) and a very active and vocal member of the GTU’s General Council. Positions in which I provided unfettered and strong representation for our teachers, and I still do to date, and many in my region can attest to these truths.
My present position does not in any regard infringe nor does it influence my freedom to make representation and speak on behalf of our teachers, as this failed attempt by my colleague capriciously tried to insinuate.
Two, the articulations postulated by my fellow educator in saying I was a part of the making of that proposal, reaffirms my embryonic aforementioned view, that my colleague is speaking from an uninformed position.
In 2015, the president of the GTU Mr. Mark Lyte who I campaigned with for his election to his present post, had a conversation about salary increases and he indicated to me the union’s desire to request 40-50% increase for teachers’ salary. Since then, as I do now, I posited to him that such a proposal is grossly absurd. I said to him that the teachers’ union much be seen as a union that leads with a greater degree of intelligence. I said to him you have to factor in the state of teachers’ salaries.
I said to him you have to factor in the state of the county’s economic position, where all of our major resources are determined by the world market prices. I also advised the issues with Guysuco be factored in, since other public servants such as our nurses, police also have their demands to make. He said, we cannot ask the government for what we want, so we have to aim high, so we can get what we want. Wow!
My view then as it is now, the focus of our union’s negotiation should not be on the basis of increased salaries but on nontaxable benefits and such like. This should be of primary importance for us.
Negotiation for a large grouping of our teachers to be given duty free vehicle concessions and include teachers who have been teaching for ten or fifteen years as well, increased uniform allowances, increased payment for teachers with a degree, post graduate certificate/degree masters, house lots, financial assistance for housing, more scholarships for our teachers and include their children, address debunching and increase risk allowances.
The Union should make representation for teachers to be eligible for government pension after twenty-five years of unbreakable service, to mention a few.
These are some of the positions I have articulated and hold strong to and I’m sure my fellow colleagues in the GTU all will support these positions.
Thirdly, my colleague’s personal view that “the MP should not be trusted to speak about teachers and their needs” is just that, her view.
I have honestly stated my position as a teacher and paying member of the Guyana Teachers’ Union, and I would venture to state that all financial members are entitled to do so. It shows a sign of intellectual maturity when we can agree to disagree without being derogatory and insulting. When our opposing views are not misconstrued and concluded as disingenuous because it doesn’t come in line with one’s view.
We have many teachers/members who are saying that this very percentage increase is, as they put it, “impractical” “unrealistic” and “nonsensical”.
Jermaine Figueira MP
Former Chairman of GTU Reg#10
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