The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) on Friday criticised the government on its attitude towards wage talks with teachers.
The WPA, a member of the key governing coalition partner, APNU, said it was dismayed at the inability of the government to arrive at an amicable agreement on the wage issue with the Guyana Teachers Union.
Teachers have vowed to go on strike from August 27 after protracted talks with the government failed to yield results.
“What is even more frightening is the government’s apparent indifference to the threat of industrial action by the teachers. Rather than trying harder to arrive at an agreement, the Ministry of Education, according to reports, appears to be more concerned with hiring scab-labour to counter the teachers’ threat. This insensitivity towards the teachers’ reasonable demands is at odds with President (David) Granger’s strident education activism and advocacy for increased and improved access to quality education by our children”, the party said.
It added: “WPA stands with the teachers in their just demands for a living wage and in their civil right to take legitimate action in pursuit of those demands. Both the right to a living wage and the right to strike are sacred rights which successive generations of Guyanese fought and died for. WPA takes a dim view of any government that seeks to violate those rights and urge the leadership of the Coalition government to avoid that course of action. This government must at all cost prevent a collision with teachers—it is not good for the country or for the image of the administration”.
The Education Ministry portfolio was formerly held by Dr Rupert Roopnaraine who is representing the WPA in the APNU+AFC cabinet. Dr Roopnaraine was moved last year from the Education portfolio to responsibility for the public service.
The WPA said that it was no secret that a central aspect of the deteriorating public education system is the state of the teaching profession. Ranged against many countries in the region, the WPA said that Guyanese teachers are very poorly paid. It said that this has in turn negatively affected both the morale and the quality of work of the teachers. It stands to reason, it said, that any improvement in education outcomes must be partly premised on improving the quality of instruction in the classrooms.
“It is in that spirit that WPA unequivocally supports the teachers’ demands for increased wages. We see this as an indispensable incentive for improved teacher instruction. Improving the wage package for teachers creates the condition for government to better hold the teachers accountable for improved practice and better outcomes. Better wages for teachers will not automatically turn around the performances of students—much more needs to be done. But if teachers are better compensated, the opportunities for more commitment by teachers would be enhanced”, the party said.
From the political perspective, the WPA said it feels the government is “committing political suicide” by picking a fight with teachers, most of whom, it said, voted for the Coalition.
“It is bad politics to alienate your supporters on a matter that could be easily solved. We, therefore, urge the government to give the teachers their due. It would be an economic boost for teachers and that would have direct and indirect impacts on the state of education while ensuring that a key electoral bloc is not alienated”, the WPA said.