Rupununi public servants expect normal payment this month

…despite new circular

Teachers and other public servants in the Deep South Rupununi expect that they will be paid via normal channels this month as they await word from the authorities on their concerns regarding salaries being paid through banks hundreds of kilometres away from the remote Amerindian communities.

“We just waiting now,” one teacher told Stabroek News on Saturday while noting that letters were dispatched to several ministries but they have not yet received a response. “We don’t know anything yet,” the teacher said. “We ain’t get no feedback.”

However, it was noted that the Regional Execu-tive Officer Claire Singh had told a Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) representative in the Region that teachers will be paid normally this month. They have not received their salaries as yet. Public service workers remain anxious as they await word from the authorities. “They can’t expect us to go miles,” the teacher said. “When teachers start to go off (for their salaries), classroom time will be affected.”

Earlier this month, teachers of schools across the Deep South Rupununi wrote to the Ministry of Local Government saying that they cannot comply with a directive that they open bank accounts in order to receive their salary citing the distance, time and cost it would take to travel the 200 km to the bank in Lethem.

The teachers had previously pointed out the distance from the Deep South communities to Lethem with Shea being 139 km away and Achiwuib being 233 km away from the Region Nine capital. The only banks in the sprawling region are in Lethem. The cost of transport is also high and rises in the rainy season.

In addition, the journey to and from Lethem typically takes more than a day.

The local branch of the GTU subsequently met and prepared the letter outlining their concerns. The letter was to be sent to the Ministry of Local Govern-ment and copied to the Ministries of Education and Amerindian Affairs, among other agencies. The teachers also made several recommendations.

Other public servants and pensioners were also required to open accounts but they too have said that while they have no problem with the idea, the issue of time, distance and cost would have to be looked at.

Upon learning of the directive last month, teachers and other public service workers earlier this month voiced their frustration to Stabroek News. Several workers at Aishalton told Stabroek News that on March 21 when they went to uplift their salaries, they had to sign a circular signed by Singh which said that it was the final instruction that they must set up a bank account by April 21 to receive their salaries.

They were required to sign the document before they could uplift their money.

The workers said that it was the first time they had seen the circular. They, along with teachers from other communities were upset and pointed out that from Aishalton, a seat on a vehicle is $10,000 return during the dry season while to hire a motorcycle costs about $30,000. Vehicles do not travel regularly on the trail and the cost rises during the rainy season, the teachers said.

It was pointed out that in the health care sector, some workers earn as little as $35,000 and when transport costs are taken into account, it would represent about 1/3 of their salary. In addition, they would have to cater for accommodation and meals. “It would be hard for us to go to withdraw our salary from Lethem,” one woman had lamented.

The villages in the Deep South Rupununi: Shea, Maruranau, Awaruwaunau, Aishalton, Karaudarnau and Achiwuib are 139, 147, 161, 193, 213 and 233 km from Lethem respectively. Parabara which also has a school is 247 km away from Lethem where the only banks in Region Nine are based. Ordinarily, salaries are taken to Aishalton and then headmasters and health workers travel to that community to uplift the salaries for their respective schools and health centres.

 

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