Govt could afford to pay teachers their salary increases-Opposition Leader

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…Urges them to cut wasteful spending of public funds

Opposition leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo has looked into Government’s spending, listing several areas where it can cut back and use that money instead to pay teachers a better living wage.

Although Government and the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) are still at loggerheads over increases for teachers, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) General Secretary feels the matter could be resolved.

At his weekly press conference held on Thursday, the former President said that if Government is to cut back on its wasteful spending, it would manage to cover a reasonable increase for the country’s teachers.

“I believe that there is money to fund a lot of which the teachers have been asking for without increasing overall expenditure in the budget…” Jadgeo reasoned.

Jagdeo pointed to a few examples of where Government’s bill has increased since 2015, in many cases double what it used to be before.

During the meeting with President David Granger, Jagdeo said he pointed out to him that the Government has a corrupt contract where an individual is paid $14 million a month for a house at Sussex Street, Albouystown.

“If you terminate that contract alone, that could fund the annual clothing allowance for all…of the teachers, you just have to terminate that one project for that” Jagdeo said.

The Opposition Leader has debunked claims that the teachers and their union are acting unreasonably, stating that they have been waiting for three years to meet with Government.

“In 2018 the President calls a task force to be appointed, the task force submitted a report in march and makes certain recommendations…if you commit yourself to a task force you have to respect its findings” the Jagdeo stated.

GTU had proposed an initial 40 per cent across the board increase for last year and 50 per cent increases annually up until 2020 for all categories of teachers.

It has been reported that the task force recommended that government consider granting GTU’s request for a 40 per cent increase on 2015 salaries.

It was also proposed that that the 40 per cent increase serve as a base with a 5 per cent incremental increase for each remaining year of the agreement.

This recommendation represents a compromise from the Union, which originally requested a 40 per cent increase in 2016, a 45 per cent increase in 2017, 50 per cent in 2018, 50 per cent in 2019 and 50 per cent in 2020.

The task force report also recommends other allowances.

But the Government has proposed a debunching pay-off of $200 million for 2018/19.

The Union has also rejected the $700 million cap that was placed on salary increases for 2018 only.

The Education Ministry has been hosting several meetings urging parents to send their children out to school when classes start next Monday.

The ministry says striking teachers will be substituted by CPCE trainees, recent graduates and retired teachers.

Some parents however, fear that their children could be shortchanged by this arrangement.

There are 998 schools across the country, and of the 10,000 teachers in the system, more than 7000 are members of the GTU.

The GTU had indicated their willingness to call the strike off provided that the impasse be arbitrated and that there was no “victimization by either party” and “no loss of pay and seniority” for the teachers.

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