Ms. Coretta McDonald, the General Secretary of the Guyana Teacher’s Union in November 2015 updated the nation to the fact that the agreement arrived at with the PPP/C Government would be coming to an end in December 2015 and there was a need for a new agreement with the PNCR-led Granger Government. Since then she and the GTU leadership have failed to secure a new agreement from the Granger administration.
There is a perception that the leadership of the GTU is dominated by PNCR supporters and followers. By extension, this translates to the school of thought that these negotiations since November 2015 between the leadership of the GTU and this PNCR-led Granger Government amounts to the PNCR-led Government negotiating with itself. Is this why after three years, the GTU leadership has failed to secure a collective bargaining agreement and resolve the de-bunching issue?
The last time the GTU did any serious industrial action in defence of the teachers’ cause was in April 2015 under the previous PPP/C Government and I welcome their belated call for industrial action in the pre-September 2018 school term; something must give – teachers cannot live on hot air. Not once over the last three years under this PNCR-led Government, has the GTU leveraged industrial action as a tool to take the teachers any closer to the “good life” although it has been treated much worse in the three years after May 2015 compared to the three years before May 2015.
When one reflects on the actions of the GTU leadership today it exposes how these actions have played a major role in the destruction of the economic well-being of the teachers, just like they did in the late 1970’s when the then Burnham Government stifled the voice of the teachers too.
Since April 6, 2018, the Cabinet of Guyana was given the report from the High-Level Task Force that was set up by the Government to charter a course on the teachers’ wages and benefits issues. It is has been four months and President Granger continues to give lip service to the burning issues affecting the teachers. Yet this same President and his Government can easily find G$1 billion and more to travel around the world on mostly international jaunts. That same billion can increase every teacher’s salary by G$7,900 per month.
Guyana’s future is intertwined with the quality of our teaching profession. Is the leadership of the GTU under some sort of political injunction to serve the PNCR more than it should serve the teachers of Guyana? The time is now for the GTU to act and the call for industrial action from the ordinary teachers must be supported as the September term approaches. It is time for the GTU leadership to decide who is more important, those 12 or so political masters at Congress Place or the 9,000 teachers in the official system. Ms. Coretta McDonald must act!