Full credit must go to the teachers and their union for finally standing up to the Granger regime. At one time, the public was concerned that they would have succumbed to the historical attitude of subservience as practiced by former GTU leaders like the late Jean Persico who placed his alliance with the PNC party above the interests of the teachers. But this new crop of GTU leaders like Mr. Mark Lyte has proved otherwise because they all seem to have a deep and more interest in progressing the teachers’ welfare than in politics. For such an effort they deserve our full support.
What the public has been hearing from Mr. Lyte is most refreshing because he has made it clear that “he does not want confrontation, he wants collaboration and partnership with the Government.” He also said that he “does not want to clash with the Government, he wants cash for his teachers”. These are profound statements in support of the teachers, most of whom are struggling to survive on their starvation wages.
So for President Granger to reject the report of the High-level Task Force he had appointed last year to make recommendations on the teachers’ proposals is most troubling because it exposes an attitude of gross deception and subterfuge on the part of his administration.
It seems that it is normal for the administration, when in opposition to make promises to the people at electionstime only to break them with a bunch of pathetic excuses for their underperformance?
There seems to be memory lapses by some in this administration these days. On November 2, 2017, this Government appointed this Task Force, with mostly PNC supporters to find solutions on the impasse relating to the salaries and non-salaries benefits for teachers. The first meeting of the Task Force was chaired by the Minister of Education Ms. Nicolette Henry, who then handed the chairmanship to Mrs. Geneveive Whyte-Nedd, retired Deputy Chief Education Officer to come up with an affordable package for teachers.
Contrary to the information spouted by some in the government, Ms. Whyte-Nedd is no friend of the PPP. Actually shefought a tough battle with the PPP to be promoted and to receive her full pension with the full support of the PNC in 2009. In its official statement, the PNC stated that Ms. Whyte-Nedd is a “highly professional and competent public servant capable of exercising independent judgment…..” (see source: https://www.stabroeknews.com/2009/news/guyana/09/12/pncr-calls-for-whyte-nedd%E2%80%99s-confirmation/ ). So let us be clear, Ms. Whyte-Nedd had the full support of the PNC.
Other members of the Task Force were – Mr. Marcel Hutson, Chief Education Officer, Ministry of Education (a PNC appointee); the most senior executive in the Ministry of Education, the Permanent Secretary (a PNC appointee); the Human Resource Manager of the Ministry of Education Ms. Jacqueline Simon; the most senior Legal Officer in the Ministry of Education Ms. Kelly-Ann Hercules; Mr. Granger’s personal Political Advisor Mr. Frederick Mc Wilfred (a PNC appointee); the Senior Personnel Officer, Ministry of the Presidency Department of Public Service Ms. Gail Williams; the most senior executive in the Ministry of Finance Dr. Hector Butts (a PNC appointee); the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Communities Mr. Emil Mc Garrell who is a product of the Ministry of Finance; Mr. Mark Lyte, President, GTU; Ms Coretta Mc Donald, General Secretary, GTU; Ms Samantha Alleyne, Treasurer, GTU, and Mr. Lancelot Baptiste, GTU.
The truth is not a single person in this team is sympathetic to the PPP’s cause. In the end, the administration was very happy to receive the Report in April 2018. This was evident in the Minister of Education Ms. Henry who expressed her pleasure with the outcome at a handing over ceremony by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Mr. Vibert Welch.
So for President Granger to now say publicly that the report is deficient exposes how disingenuous and dishonest this Government really is when it comes to the treatment of the ordinary people. Here we have a report prepared by some highly professional persons including the Chief Financial Officer of the Ministry of Finance Dr. Hector Butts who is best placed to know how much finance is available, yet the report was rejected because therecommendations were not in favor of the government, which continue to disrespect the teachers by calling them greedy. Well, if the teachers are labelled greedy because they are asking for 40 percent salary increase, what terminology would be used for those who received a 50 percent increase in salaries after being in office for only a month? The cavalier approach by the government against the teachers could have dire consequences for the administration at November 12 local government elections.
In 2009, Ms.Amna Ally, then the opposition spokesperson on education in Parliament, said in defense of an education issue, “let us bring this issue to an end and reassure the professionals in the system that there is still space for them to act as guardians of the country’s education system”.
What was good for the goose when Ms. Ally was in the opposition, is also good for the gander now that she and her PNC colleagues have the power to make right with the same education professionals in the system.
In this internet age, Mr. Granger ought to know that he cannot fool the people. Financial experts have examined the 2018 Budget Estimates and have found at least 10 areas where funds are stacked for pageantry purposes in subservience to the Executive that can easily be diverted to pay teachers 15 percent in Year 1 and 5% in Year 2 and 3 which is more likely thatthe GTU will accept willingly.
It is time for the government to come clean with the teachers and respect this noble profession.
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