Striking teachers not happy with Government’s continued position on wages negotiation

Striking teachers not happy with Government’s continued position on wages negotiation

Pockets of teachers returned to the streets today in Georgetown, expressing anger over the Government’s “failure” to compromise on a wage package for them, which was submitted four years ago.

Outside of the Ministry of Education’s Brickdam Office, First Vice President of the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) Mariska Williams told News Source that teachers are angry with the Government’s continued position.

“I think at this point most teachers are angry … they are angry about the disrespect which is meted out to teachers. It’s all about the disrespect and they are very angry…As an individual I am very, very disappointed in the administration,” Williams said. 

Talks between the Ministry of Education and the Teachers’ Union came to a halt earlier this week, with both sides accusing each other of being unreasonable with their demands.

The Education Ministry is demanding an end to the ongoing strike action, but the Union has made it clear that it will not heed to the demands of the Government, until the Administration agrees to the timeframe for the proposed multi-year-agreement and an interim across-the-board payment of 20% to all teachers.

Williams said although the Union has signaled its willingness to compromise on the time-frame for the proposed multi-year agreement, Government has not budged from any of it positions.

“We are appealing to the Administration to meet us half way. We have been compromising in so many ways when we meet to consult with them, and you know, it is always the GTU compromising, coming up with different scenarios or situations to say meet us half way,” the Union’s First Vice President said.  

Protesting teacher, Anisah Woolford-Saunders, said as an educator, it peeves her heart to have to protest for a decent salary. She said while she loves her students, it is difficult many times to make ends meet, putting a strain on her mental health. She said the situation is no different for other teachers across the country. 

With the strike ongoing for well over 40 days, having started in February with a brief hiatus, Woolford-Saunders is hopeful that there will be a solution to the ongoing dispute soon. 

“Today, I continue to pray, and be hopeful that the Minister of Education and the government as a whole along with the union can come to some sort of agreement, so we can get back into the classroom and continue to educate the nation’s children. It’s too long we have been asking for an increase, it’s too long we have been asking for some amount of respect. Many times we have teachers who go beyond the call of duty, they sacrifice their time, their me time, the time they spent with their families, just to ensure that we have a proper education system in Guyana but at the end of the day when we collect our salary, it is so meagre,” teacher said. 

In New Amsterdam, teachers were joined by their representatives along with General Secretary of the Guyana Trade Union Congress (GTUC), Lincoln Lewis, and other trade unionists, including veteran trade unionist Norris Witter. 

Both Lewis and Witter urged the teachers to remain resolute.

“I want to commend you for staying resolute so far. I want to implore you to continue to be resolute. I want to suggest to you that you continue to organize and mobilize, you have to continue organizing. You have to continue to ensure that your cause is made public, everybody knows what you are up against because already you have seen a campaign, a disinformation campaign, a campaign intended to give a false narrative for the reason why you are out here and we must debunk those kinds of campaign. We are not dealing with angels,” Witter told the teachers. 

He said the struggle must be taken to its logical conclusion. 

A High Court Judge has ruled that the industrial action taken by teachers is legal. The judge found that there was no real attempt by the Government to engage the Teachers’ Union in Collective Bargaining, despite the best efforts of the Union.

Government has vowed to appeal that ruling, as the strike action continues.

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