The decision by the government to step back from its earlier announced position, that the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) must call off the strike and agree to conciliation before arbitration, is a victory for the union’s leadership and its members.
It is also a victory for workers in general and particularly for African workers who are members of the GTU. These striking workers stood up in support of their just demands to have a living wage and refused to allow themselves to be victims of the “opium” of party loyalty.
President David Granger’s APNU+AFC administration’s acceptance of the union demand for arbitration is a good political decision that will help to distinguish it from the PPP and that party’s “hardline” approach to public sector workers wages and salaries negotiations. Having made a major misstep in dealing with the teachers’ pay dispute, the regime demonstrated maturity and political wisdom by putting an end to a potentially explosive industrial situation that would have been counter-productive to the political fortunes of the APNU+AFC coalition and government.
I wish to salute the teachers and their leadership for holding their ground in this standoff with the Education Ministry. If workers are not prepared to stand up for their own interest, who do they expect will do so for them?
Shame on those teachers who refused to join the strike but are eagerly looking forward to the benefits which will result from the efforts of those who struggled.
To invoke a Rastafarian saying, “fires” on all the detractors in the African community who were critical of the teachers and supportive of the government position that the teachers should accept the government’s measly offer since there is no money to pay higher wages. This is evidence of self-destructive behaviour and lack of consciousness cultivated over time by blind party loyalty. This lack of consciousness is not good for either the party or the community.