Teachers, GTU need to be firm with the coalition administration

first_imgDear Editor,With America and the United Kingdom having vested interests in Guyana, for strategic geopolitical reasons and as a former colony respectively, these countries, particularly the United Kingdom, must be shaking their heads at what continues to obtain in Guyana in our political and economic affairs.Not only they, but Guyanese can very probably attest for themselves that granting Guyana independence in 1966 was premature; because while there was no doubt a need to curtail the extraction of our wealth while we were a colony as a means of promoting development locally, releasing Guyana as an independent nation has, in retrospect, been disastrous.After 52 years of economic mismanagement and retrograde politics, many Guyanese workers and their families survive on depressed incomes while our Government ministers, with the approval of the President himself, recently made themselves right by granting themselves multi-million-dollar annual salaries, deliberately ignoring public servants on the lower salary scales.It is eye-opening to note that the Coalition was willing to extend a $450 million contract as a reward for ‘political favours or support’, while the people whose votes brought the administration into power are being treated like fools. I was made to understand that the Police Force did not receive an increase in their salaries in one of the more recent years. It is my considered opinion that underpaying workers is equivalent to robbing them.The last three years of the PNC-led coalition’s administration have been a display of utter ignominy, having learnt nothing from its previous misadventure in the political economy of Burnhamism. It is impossible for an economy to prosper, or a Government to survive, by casting aside the private sector and marginalising close to 50% of the population. These, I think, were thoughts of Dr. Cheddi Jagan on Burnhamism. This aside, I wish to address the concerns of our teachers and public servants in general.The current administration has adopted measures which clearly demonstrate that it intends to de-emphasise workers and their rights both in respect to working conditions and compensation. I reiterate that public servants and workers in general have to make their welfare a priority of this Government; and for that matter, any Government.In respect of salaries for teachers and public servants in general, I have already demonstrated that G$146,000 leaves workers with just over G$12,000 per week to look after food, their dependents and other miscellaneous needs; and this is clearly inadequate to those familiar with our cost of living. This is not even considering the impending impact of the recent increase in bus fares.I have consistently maintained that the salaries of all public servants should be adjusted by an amount which brings the salary of the lowest paid worker up to an acceptable ‘living wage’. While there has been no agreement as yet on this figure, the adjoining table places the current demands of the Teachers’ Union in context, excluding miscellaneous items.These I suggested should be dealt with subsequently, since I think that ensuring all workers receive at least an acceptable living wage is more important. The annual increases have been applied to the base figures alone, since this method produces reasonable numbers.Examination of these figures, the base numbers of which are estimates, reveals that the union was correct, at least with respect to addressing the needs of teachers on the lower salary scale, in its demands in respect of its proposed annual salary increases. It is only in 2019, using these salary adjustments alone, that the salaries of the lowest paid teachers approach anything close to acceptable. Further, $1.2 billion would more than comfortably cover increases for all teachers (estimated at 9,500) if based on the salary of $67,000 on lowest scale, up to 2019. Teachers should be comfortable with the proposed increases as presented here, and should clarify these numbers with their union. Applying the percent increases to all teaching salary scales pushes up the annual cost by a not insignificant amount, which makes it more onerous to be applied to all public servants.Yours faithfully,Craig Sylvesterlast_img

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