Teachers should not be asked to wait for two years to have a significant increase in their wages

Dear Editor,

The poorly paid teachers of this country are now being asked by the Prime Minister to exercise ‘patience’. A quality which was seriously lacking when this Government gave themselves salary increases ranging from 50% to 100%. These impoverished teachers are also told that the ministers have now been exercising ‘patience’ since they will not be giving themselves any salary increases for this year and next year! He said that those in government did not receive ‘a cent’ increase in 2016 and 2017 and will not receive ‘a cent’ in 2018. This is absurdity to the extreme! It’s easy to say this when your salary is more than 28 times that of a teacher. That is leaving out all the perks and other benefits which these people enjoy. A paltry increase of 8% is unacceptable for public servants and more so for teachers.

These teachers are the pillars upon which a society is built and their contributions cannot be so easily thrown aside by making them feel that they are being unreasonable and should exercise ‘patience’. Imagine the expenses which a teacher has to go through. Apart from his daily sustenance he has to be properly dressed, groomed and fork out money for transportation to and from work. If that teacher is married he is in trouble financially. The honourable Prime Minister drew a comparison with what he was working for in terms of US dollars but failed to submit the hardships he and his family had to endure and what he had to do to supplement his meagre earnings. He failed to also state what the cost of living was in those days. Being a former teacher, one would have expected that his contribution to the plight of the teachers would have been more than a request for ’patience’.

Another aspect which one must look at is the performance of teachers as compared with that of the ministers of Government. It is a fact that the results at CSEC and the National Grade Six Examinations have been improving all the time. Can we safely say this about the Ministers? Absolutely not! It’s one scandal after another and a declining economy which is being buffered by taxing the people into poverty. When one examines this in light of the tax-free and duty-free concessions of Ministers of Government this insult is beyond our conscience! The Prime Minister is now saying that, ‘if you don’t have revenue then you can distribute nothing’. It must be recalled that this Government had said that they inherited an ‘empty treasury’ so the pertinent question is: Where did the revenue come from? They did not even start to work as yet and they inherited an empty treasury but they had ‘revenue’ to pay themselves stupendous salaries’ increases. Why did the ministers not take their increases ‘incrementally’ and ‘hope for the best’? The teachers must now wait for the ‘oil money’ to flow. Perhaps the Prime Minister can recall the old adage, ‘a bird in hand is worth two in the bush’.

I do strongly believe that the Prime Minister has the ability to do a lot better for the teachers. Why is he progressively alienating and distancing himself from the working class people of this country? Self-preservation should not be the deciding factor but the principles which one should stand for, have stood for, have lived for and live for and willing to die for! History can be very cruel to those who turned their backs from the masses!

What is the AFC’s position on this? The Prime Minister is definitely parroting the Government’s position but we need to hear from the Leader of the AFC. There are many issues on which the AFC is silent and a silent partnership is counter-productive to national development. Whither the Cummingsburg Accord (or Discord?)? The remaining few AFC members should condemn this ‘muted’ relationship!

Teachers should not be asked to wait for two years to have a significant increase in their wages and salaries. I must commend the GTU President Mr Mark Lyte for standing his ground, teachers should be respected. Their demands are not unreasonable.

‘Patience has its limits, take it too far and it’s called cowardice’!

Yours faithfully,

Haseef Yusuf

RDC Councillor –Region 6

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