– some disenchanted with Union; will turn out for work today
“I looked to the Union (before) for representation; they did not make themselves available … so how can I trust them now?” -Teacher
Some teachers appear to have taken a divided stance on the countrywide strike action led by the Guyana Teacher’s Union, (GTU), scheduled to commence today.
Last week, GTU‘s President, Mark Lyte had told the media that the Union has been receiving overwhelming support from its members. Lyte had reported that all members from the Georgetown area are fully on board with the strike.
However, checks made at some schools in the city revealed that this is not the case.
Kaieteur News has learnt that more teachers are participating in the strike in Linden than in Georgetown.
For at least six schools in Region Four, (Georgetown and surrounding areas) a majority of the teaching staff are expected to turn out to work today.
This newspaper has engaged a few teachers, who on the condition of anonymity shared their views on the industrial action.
A teacher attached to a secondary school in the city reported that “Teachers have been in school for the pre- term activities which is in preparation for the new school year and almost all the teachers have turned up to work. “
“We have 27 teachers on staff and nineteen have been at work this week,”
The teacher noted that over time, she became increasingly disenchanted by the actions of the Union towards reaching an agreement with the government for salaries to increase.
“For me it’s like, it’s been too long. The Union’s efforts towards getting an increase for teachers’ salaries has taken too long … Three years after the government changed and still there’s no proper arrangement for teachers to benefit from a salary increase.
“Also, from my experience the Union has been reluctant to represent the interest of teachers in smaller matters.
“I have personally experienced instances where I looked to the Union for representation; they did not make themselves available … so how can I trust them now?”
I don’t believe they (the GTU) truly has teachers’ interests at heart.
It is my opinion that the Union is only interested in helping whenever they can benefit.
Whenever teachers’ salaries increase; the union dues are bound to go up,” the teacher added.
Additionally, some teachers accused the GTU of not giving them proper notice of the impending strike action.
“I have been a member of the Union for the past ten years. And to tell you the truth, there was not one single occasion where I received an official notice from GTU about this strike action,” one teacher said.
“Everything I know so far is from the media reports, in the newspaper, radio or television.
And I believe that the issue is the same for many teachers. We were not properly informed.”
Another teacher attached to a primary school on the East Bank noted that for her, the GTU announcement that there is no cash relief for teachers made her rethink participating in the strike action.
“At this point, I am undecided because I understand that there are no proper measures in place to accommodate teachers, should they lose their salaries.
“I will be going out to work on Monday (Today) but I have not decided if I’ll be a part of the strike because I have a mortgage and other financial commitments. I cannot afford to lose my salary.”
Another teacher opined that while she agrees with the government that the 40 percent salary increase may be difficult to hand out at this time, the government offer of a $700 million one-off payment to teachers, is also not reasonable
“However as a teacher I believe that a 20 percent or even a 25 percent increase along with other benefits like travel, uniform, stationery allowance and duty free concession for senior teachers would be reasonable.
“I believe the Union should bargain for something like that instead of for an overall increase of forty percent.”
Last week, GTU‘s President reported that the Union has met with members across the country.
According to Lyte, the Union reached out to hundreds of its members from Georgetown, the East Coast Demerara, Berbice , Linden, Bartica and Essequibo.
“Our teachers are serious about striking…in Bartica, they have agreed to meet with us, even on a national holiday,” said Lyte, as he insisted that teachers are fully prepared to stay away from school come even without financial support,” Lyte said.
Lyte also noted that GTU is looking into claims that some teachers are being dissuaded from supporting the planned industrial action.
Lyte said based on reports reaching the Union, some teachers within Region One for instance have been receiving threats.
“Based on second-hand information, we are hearing that some of the untrained and semi qualified teachers from areas within Region One have been threatened to stay away from any strike action, and they have been warned that they must report for work,” Lyte stated.
It is being alleged, Lyte said, that the threats have been made by a senior official.
“We are trying to get more information on this,” said Lyte, even as he insisted that the union has officially informed the Ministry, and by extension the regions, of its plan to engage industrial action. This therefore means that the action to strike is a legitimate one, and therefore, teachers should not be fearful of participating.
He said that executive members of the Union has since met with more than 200 teachers at its Woolford Avenue, Georgetown headquarters, where it sought to sensitise teachers about the importance of engaging industrial action.
Following the initial two weeks of strike action, the GTU is expected to meet with its membership to decide the way forward if government does not revise its position.
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