With much interest, I have been following the discussions on the ‘negotiation process’ between the Ministry of Education and the Guyana Teachers’ Union [GTU] on the
‘Teachers’ Multi-Year Agreement Package for 2016-2020’.
A high level committee, consisting of government and union representatives, was established, to fast-track the negotiation process. This negotiation process lasted from November 2017 through April 2018.
After several meetings, a report detailing the recommendations was handed over to the Minister of Education, Ms. Nicolette Henry. The submission of that report indicates that the ‘negotiation process’ had ended.
It is very disheartening and depressing to know that three years have elapsed since this Government took office, yet teachers haven’t received a salary increase or any clothing allowance. We were only paid a 6% interim. Even though the bargaining process ended with the ‘Task Force’, the Guyana Teachers’ Union acquiesced to open the door for further discussions, since they were solicitous about the welfare of teachers. However, the Education Ministry failed us miserably and is continuing to fail us daily.
Because of these ‘failed talks’ between the union and the government, regarding a salary package for public school teachers, we are now at a point where a decision was made for teachers to strike, so that their demands can be met.
Many people, including teachers have criticized this movement and are not in support of it. Most of the teachers who are not participating in this strike action questioned ‘Why support the union?’ This is ludicrous of them.
I wish to make it clear to these teachers, to participate in the ‘strike’ doesn’t mean you are supporting the union, you are actually struggling for yourself with the advancement of prosperity and well-being so that you can live a comfortable and better life. This is only possible with the support of the union. Who is supporting whom? Where is the reasoning educators?
It is a fact that every teacher would welcome a salary increase, but not ALL of them are ready to struggle for this cause. It will be good if those teachers who boycotted the strike be ostracized when the increase is granted. But as we all know, at the end, every teacher will benefit from whatever the union is now seeking.
The teachers who are not a part of this ‘struggle’ send a clear message, that they are comfortable with what they earn and are not seeking any increase in their salaries. Henceforth, they should never complain about working for a meagre salary, under unfavourable conditions while completing multitudinous records and at the same time being held accountable for the ‘poor performances’ of learners.
On the other hand, teachers who are on strike have been accused of being “selfish” and “uncaring” by a government Minister.
To recognize the ‘uncaring’ and ‘selfish’ ones is easy. Who took a 50 per cent pay rise in 2015? The selfish and inconsiderate ones! Sadly, teachers are still awaiting an increase in salary and are labelled as ‘selfish’ and ‘uncaring’. Tell me, who are the self-seeking ones here?
Then the [CEO] Mr. Marcel Hutson mentioned that “sometimes we have to put the children above ourselves.” I agree with him fully, but I think these officials are the ones who need to put the children above themselves by honoring the needs of the teachers, so that they can all return to the classrooms and continue to mould the nation’s children.
In addition, I heard the Minister of Education mentioning at a press conference that they will be recruiting 2,500 persons as part of the contingency plan to replace the striking teachers. This lacks reasoning and will certainly cost the Government. What will they do with those people after the strike action comes to an end and teachers resume duty? Is she on a ‘hire and fire’ spree? This move defies logic.
Furthermore, on April 18, 2015, filed in Kaieteur News captioned “Granger plans to curb the exodus of teachers by increasing salaries, if elected”, our President, Mr. Granger, who was the presidential candidate for the APNU + AFC coalition at that time stated, “I have always been saying that, at this point in Guyana’s development, teachers should be the best paid public servants.” What is happening now? Why is the Government ‘beating around the bush’ as it relates to salary increases for teachers?
Mr. President, I am appealing to you, please act in accordance with your words by making teachers the ‘best paid public servants’. Give our teachers what they deserve.
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