Linking by Minister of pay increases for teachers to other categories of workers is frightening prospect

Dear Editor,

Those, of so many of us who have long been concerned about the prolonged maltreatment of the category of public servants who commit to teaching us and our children, could not help but pay heed to the pronouncements by the Minister of Education, as reported in SN’s ‘Wages talks with Teachers Union not over’ of August 15, 2018.

First, attention is drawn to the passing indication that ‘any increases offered to teachers would be offered to all categories of government workers’.

Implicit in this assertion is that the Minister was relaying a policy decision of the Cabinet, which in turn is a frightening prospect. Given the admitted unfamiliarity with the products of the appointed Task Force, one takes the risk of assuming that the recipients have not yet fully informed themselves of the stark contrast between the current values attributed to Teachers and of that disproportionate percentage of public servants who are not required to account for their various levels of productivity, and unlike teachers, by any given time frame.

Performance Management

Indeed, the principle and practice of performance management in the Public Service have long been discarded. Teachers, on the other hand, are placed continuously under the radar to account for how and when, they produce those who graduate to be their better paid counterparts (in too many cases unrelated to true value.)

And even if the process of annual performance appraisals were observed, there are few scales in the Teachers’ salary structure that would accommodate more than two annual increments of 5% of salary.

De-bunching

The above apart, one does not recall the implementation of the recommendation of the Commission of Inquiry Report into the Public Service on the necessary de-bunching of salaries. So that one is forced to query the purported linkage between ‘de-bunching’ and ‘ball-park’ figure, if in fact the exercise has not yet been undertaken (logically) by the Task Force. Then there is the futile prospect of de-bunching fixed salaries.

Comparative Qualifications and Salary Structure

Meanwhile, it would be interesting to learn whether any comparative analysis has ever been attempted to assess the percentage of qualified personnel in the teaching population as against the percentage of qualified employees in the total population of public servants.

Additionally, how can any objective comparison justify the considerable bandwidth of the respective Public Service scales, while condoning fixed salaries for the principals of the highest graded public schools in the land, including the Cyril Potter College of Education?

The stark fact is that at the lowest comparable grades it is possible for Cleaners and Office Assistants to earn better pay than recruits into the entry levels of the Teacher structure, for the latter’s salaries are also fixed.

Spillover benefits and affordability

All the above therefore must look askance at the glib remark about all categories of public servants benefitting (compassionately) along with increases for Teachers. Would this be before or after de-bunching?

One therefore prefers to reserve comment on the preambling reference to financial affordability, coming after, reportedly, five months of lethargy – certainly from the GTU’s standpoint.

So when it is suggested that there is no ‘sinister’ motive in awarding a ‘ball –park’ figure, should that word be interpreted to mean ‘illogic’? Surely we have been taught that ‘the whole is the sum of its parts.’

Informing Guyanese people

Further, why is it assumed that there are not ‘Guyanese people’ (including families of teachers) who do not already know and indeed have known better, for some time now? Have we not all been taught?

Issue of Recognition Agreement

Incidentally, the demand, as reported in SN of August 16, for the GTU to tender a Recognition Agreement document is clearly superfluous, coming after the de facto recognition enshrined in the several negotiated employment agreements.

It cannot be in the interest of the current proceedings to introduce this tone of hostility, when in fact the normal role of a Labour agency (Ministry or otherwise) is to facilitate amicability between contesting parties.

Nobody wins in such a sterile environment. Even the generation of older secondary school students will recognise this default.

Yours faithfully,

E.B. John

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