Last week I argued that collective bargaining (CB) cannot increase teachers’ pay to the level they require to compensate for the historical and moral deficiencies they believe they have sustained and are still sustaining, and concluded that a good result for the teachers can only be won where there exists ‘strong industrial action to induce in the government the political will to positively respond either before its final stage or during that stage by liberalizing the restrictive conditionalities of the arbitration terms of reference.’ I then said that, ‘This government has done little in relation to the teachers to suggest that the political will exists.’
We are at the final stage of the CB process without any of the above occurring, largely because I believe the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) leadership was badly advised. The union has now reached the arbitration stage and inexplicably has called off the strike without having first concluded the terms of reference for the proposed arbitration. Furthermore, so far as I am aware, during the conciliation process it was unable to extract any new meaningful offer from the government and rather than leaving it to the arbitrators to decide, it has stated without any good reason that it was willing to accept a 20% increase in wages instead of the 40% the task force that examined the government finances recommended!
Public servants are generally viewed as intolerant and useless: adding unnecessary cost to relevant levels of the production process. But perhaps because most of us have had a favourite teacher and had, have, or will have children in whose success teachers have played, are playing or will play a substantial part, in my opinion, in our society teachers represent the soul of the public service. While it is true that some teachers are accused of not properly teaching and forcing children into after-school lessons, even the need for those lessons is usually blamed on the state. Therefore, most people – even the APNU+AFC government – want a better deal for teachers and the union began the strike with an unusual level of public support…..