Jagdeo chides Govt over its sloth regarding teachers’ benefits

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…questions their commitment to education 

Opposition leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo has called out the incumbent APNU+AFC Administration for delaying the process of meeting an agreement to raise teachers’ salaries.

Jagdeo, in questioning Government’s commitment to education in Guyana, posited that  President David Granger and his Cabinet have an obligation to address the concerns of teachers and should seek to have the issue of salary increases for teachers resolved quickly.

He recalled that during his tenure as President, he personally sat with the leadership of the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) to discuss salaries and other benefits for teachers.

Jagdeo said he worked too with the GTU to come up with a multi-year remuneration package for teachers, which included not only salaries, but a housing fund and duty-free concessions, among other incentives.

He urged the coalition Government to ensure that it responded to the concerns of the teachers, noting the importance of teachers to the education system and the country as a whole.

“Granger has talked about education, but what about the teachers … they can’t even get a commitment,” he said, noting that it was unacceptable for teachers to be treated in that manner.

Last month, two letters were sent to President Granger, one by GTU General Secretary Coretta McDonald and the second by Union President Mark Lyte.

File photo: Members from the GTU meeting with President Granger in October of 2017

Both sought to enquire of the President and his Cabinet the reasons for the delayed remuneration package for teachers and also requested a timeline for its realisation.

While Education Minister Nicolette Henry has said that the matter was now in the hands of Cabinet and that recommendations were made and submitted for initial evaluation, the GTU said it was fed up.

Lyte told this media group last month that the Union has learnt unofficially that the work of the High-Level Task Force of Public Education has been dealt with by Cabinet.

However, he said the Union was yet to hear a word from the Government on its decision.

The GTU official also pointed out that the Government has been claiming that teachers were important, yet its action seemed to differ as there was no real genuine effort being made to address their needs.

“And just recently, we were being told that private schools are outperforming public schools and only when exam time comes people feel it. But this is a result of the low motivation,” he explained.

The Union has proposed a series of increases. These, it said, were proposed with the aim of improving the financial stability of teachers, who are the most significant figures within society.

A 40 per cent salary increase for public school teachers was proposed for the year 2016. Over time, the percentage would be increased for all categories of represented teachers.

For the year 2017, the Union was hoping to have bargained for a 45 per cent increase, which would then increase to 50 per cent for the remainder of the years indicated in the agreement (2018-2020).

Among its list of proposals that are still in queue for a response are the duty-free concessions that the Union has been making pleas for in the past few years.

The proposal had been reapproved by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, in 2017, but since then there have been no further discussions on when or if this would be implemented.

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