Over 3700 teachers confirmed on strike, GTU says “we will not retreat”

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General Secretary of the GTU, Coretta McDonald addressing the teachers gathered at the Union’s Woolford Avenue, Georgetown headquarters

The Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) during a press briefing on Monday disclosed that as at 11:00h the confirmed number of teachers on strike reached above 3700 teachers with more expected as the numbers are still being tabulated.

The breakdown of the figures so far have indicated that 1000 teachers in Linden, 600 in Berbice, 235 in Region 5, 700 in Georgetown and 70 in Kwakwani, among other places.

General Secretary (GS) of the GTU, Coretta McDonald told media operatives that “We will no retreat until respect is given to us – not in words but dollars and cents and other non-salary benefits.”

Asserting that while she doesn’t want to be political, McDonald said if one is to do the comparison, teachers got more under the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Administration than under the David Granger led coalition.

Some of the teachers assembled at GTU headquarters

“They are playing on our emotions saying this is the party most of our teachers supported and we (govt) only been in office for three years…our party don’t work when you have to go to the market and when you have to pay mortgage. So our party dead. This is about survival. Some of us are barely making it” said McDonald.

Moreover, the GTU is demanding an apology from Minister Keith Scott on his statement about teachers.

Scott, who is the junior Social Protection Minister with responsibility for Labour, was quoted publicly calling teachers “uncaring” and “selfish” and contextualized his assertions by adding  that “We do not sacrifice children. Children must never be used as pawns. Our responsibility must be to put children first, we can’t discard our care of them because we want a lil money.”

In response to his remarks, the GTU GS said that “We will forgive him, because we all learn at different levels….but we are demanding respect from Government. The struggle is real. Only we as teachers know.”

Government’s failure to come to an agreement with the GTU to date continues to build public outrage and worry as schools reopened on Monday.

Moreover, the coalition Administration has come under heavy criticism for not having teachers’ interest at heart, with many pointing to the fact that Cabinet Members gave themselves a hefty 50 per cent pay hike shortly after assuming office back in 2015, but cannot find monies to pay teachers that educate the country’s future work force.

However, the Head of State at his most recent press briefing defended Government’s salary increase, saying that it was felt prudent at that time to have a one-off review of ministerial salaries so that Ministers could focus on their duties and not worry about their income.

“It was not as massive as some people thought. There were many public servants who were receiving salaries in excess of what the ministers were receiving… As far as I’m concerned, there is no regret. It was something, I think, that needed to be done early in the administration, and I think the ministers are able now better to pay attention to their ministerial functions without worrying about that issue,” he contended, while assuring that there will be no other salary increases for ministers.

Teachers are seeking increases of 40 per cent under a multi-year arrangement up to 2020.

However, Government has maintained that it just cannot afford this proposal, offering a 2018-2019 pay off.

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