Forty percent claim by teachers not unreasonable

Dear Editor,

The Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) has decided to call its members out on strike. This was due to the total disregard of this APNU+AFC regime for teachers and their union. It is the latest demonstration of the anti-working class nature of this regime.

No one can seriously accuse the teachers and, their union, of acting impulsively.

Since 2015 the multi-year agreement that the teachers had with government expired. The regime made no serious effort to engage the union in any negotiations for a new agreement. The union has been complaining about not being able to meet any of the decision-makers to deal with their issues.

The union obviously became frustrated at the total disrespect that the regime displayed towards their plight. They decided earlier to strike.

President Granger at that point intervened. He proposed that a Task Force be established to look into the conditions of the teachers and make recommendations. The union agreed and the Task Force was established and began its work.

In its report, among its findings, was the need to increase teachers’ salary by forty percent (40%).

Government made no move to implement any of the Task Force’s recommendations.

The union, like any union would do, began to prepare its position to send to the government to begin negotiations.  It was only natural that they would have pushed for a 40% increase that was recommended by the Task Force that President Granger had established.

Again, the government held no talks with the union, continuing to display arrogance typical of the PNCR.

Having been continuously ignored the union decided to call a strike.

Most distressing was the regime’s response. Instead of recognizing their own shortcomings and calling in the union for discussions, the government decided to use strong-arm tactics. Anti-union/anti-workers’ stances were immediately taken to intimidate teachers.

The regime announced that they would break the teachers strike even before the strike started. It has gone to recruit scab labour and use students at the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) to break the strike.

The Chronicle, the regime’s mouthpiece, began to immediately spread the regime’s anti-teachers’ position. One of the things that the regime is pushing for is that 40% is an unreasonable demand by the union

What they failed to say was that this was the union’s first position. The union has never refused to negotiate; it is the government that has done so.

Moreover, the union could not have put a lesser demand to the regime in the light of what the Task Force had recommended. To have done otherwise would have been courting the accusation by its members of ‘sell out’. Although the union displayed flexibility and reasonableness, the regime adopted a very hostile stance against them.

The teachers have displayed remarkable patience. The 40% claim is not unreasonable; given that it has come out of the recommendation of a Task Force appointed by the regime. Yet the teachers union has announced that it was willing to negotiate the package.

It is time for this regime to show some respect to our working people. They can start by engaging the Teachers’ Union in earnest negotiations. Show some respect for once.

Donald Ramotar,

Former President

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