Teachers across the country officially started their strike action today as their union, the Guyana Teachers Union and the Ministry of Education continue to fail in their efforts to reach an agreement on the salary increases for teachers.
Across the country today, teachers came out in their hundreds in mid-morning marches and picketing action.
In Georgetown, Union officials and teachers picketed the Ministry of the Presidency, where it was made clear by the teachers that they are open to more benefits if the Government finds itself unable to meet their damands.
Deputy Headmaster at North Ruimveldt Secondary, Kerwin Mars told News Source that the Government needs to come better.
“What we want the Government to do is to come and tell us we can’t afford 40%, so we will give y’all this percentage but we will give clothing allowance, duty free, we will reduce the class size, we will give y’all this and that and other benefits. That’s why we are out here and we will continue to be out here if they don’t negotiate reasonably with us”, Mars said.
He said a 20% offer by the Government along with other benefits would be welcomed by teachers.
The Government has told the teachers that it has set aside $700 million for salary increases for this year. The teachers explained that while the figure may seem high, when it is divided among the more than 7000 public school teachers in Guyana then is further reduced following the GRA and NIS reductions, they would not see an increase on their salaries of more than $3000.
Lodge Secondary School teacher, Stacy Benjamin, said the Government needs to wake up and offer something much better. She warned the Government that the teachers are prepared to “wake you up and the entire nation”, if the teachers continue to be disrespected.
Ms. Benjamin reminded that it was the President himself who requested and set up a task force to examine the issues related to the teachers salary and it now appears as though the Government does not want to take on the recommendations of its own task force.
“We are being bashed by the Government concerning the 40% and I want to make it clear that you need to pay attention to the proposal and you need to pay attention to the recommendations that came out of the task force, concerning this proposal. There were two tasks force…so we are talking about two task force and the recommendation from the task force is what we are asking for and you need to pay attention to that. It’s not teachers coming out here and saying all we want is 40% and we are not going to bargain. This is collective bargaining. The Government wants something form teachers which is better performance, and we also want a package from the Government and the task force recommendation is to give the teachers 40%”, she said.
Linden teacher and former APNU Member of Parliament, Vanessa Kissoon was also on the picket line in front of the President’s Office.
She said the issue is not just about the salaries, but too many teachers are faced with poor working conditions.
She said teachers continue to find themselves using their personal money to do work for the classrooms and the schools and it cannot continue. She said for those teachers who would have been provided with living quarters, those living quarters are in a deplorable state that that issue must be addressed.
Other teachers on the picketing line complained about not receiving a uniform allowance in over five years while demands are made by the Government about the mode of dress.
In Linden teachers sang out in protest today and they traversed Avenue of the Republic in the town, pressing for increased salaries and benefits.
The GTU has said it will press on with its protests.