The General Secretary of the Guyana Teachers Union told teachers gathered at the Union’s headquarters this afternoon that while she does not want to get political, she believes it is important to compare the state of teachers under the last PPP government which spent twenty three years in office and the current government, which has been in power for the past three years.
According to General Secretary for the GTU, Coretta McDonald, while the PPP may have only given teachers 5% increase in their salaries during its time in office, that raise was accompanied by non-tax benefits.
“If we look at what happened with the PPP government when they were in power and what is transpiring now, remember we didn’t want a 5%, but with the 5%, we got a whole lot of non tax benefits, you remember. So for the first time in the history of this country, our teachers were able to get clothing allowance, duty free concessions, allowance for special confirmations, while the PPP government was in power. And I don’t want to sound political but we have to make a comparison”, she told the teachers.
The Guyana Teachers Union is pressing the government for an acceptable salary increase. Its original demand was for a 40% increase for the 2016 and 50% annually for the next four years as part of a five year deal. However, when the President met with the union and put together a high level task force, that demand by the GTU was thrown out the window.
The High Level Task Force has since recommended that the teachers be paid a 40% increase for the first year with the remaining four years seeing a 5% increase. The Union said it would accept that recommendation but the Government said it could not afford such an increase for the more than 10,000 teachers across the country.
Instead, the Government’s counter proposal was to put a ball park figure of $700 million for salary increases for this year alone. The Teachers Union find that figure unacceptable since it might result in each teacher receiving a $4000 per month increase on their salaries.
While the negotiations have been stuck on the issue of the salaries, the two sides have agreed to a number of benefits and allowances.
Opposition Leader and former President Bharrat Jagdeo has called on the Government to pay the teacher a better increase, pointing out that the government has been involved in wasteful spending that it could cut back on.
President David Granger has said the strike action is extreme but has also announced that various government ministries are already looking at areas to cut back spending so that the Government could make a better offer for the teachers.
Some teachers have said they would be willing to accept an increase between 10% and 20% with better uniform allowance.