‘Gov’t committing political suicide by fighting with Teachers’ – WPA

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The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) – a party in the APNU+AFC Government – has criticised the David Granger led administration for being “insensitive” to the plight of teachers.

The WPA feels the Government is committing “political suicide by picking a fight with teachers, most of whom voted for the Coalition.”

“It is bad politics to alienate your supporters on a matter that could be easily solved. We, therefore, urge the government to give the teachers their due. It would be an economic boost for teachers and that would have direct and indirect impacts on the state of education while ensuring that a key electoral bloc is not alienated,” a statement from the WPA on Friday evening noted.

The Ministry of Education and the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) have reached an impasse in their final stages of negotiation for salary increases on Thursday.

As such, GTU President, Mark Lyte says the teachers will still proceed on strike from August 27th as the Government refused to budge on its proposed ballpark figures of $700M and $200M for salary increases and debunching, respectively.

The WPA said it is “dismayed by the inability of the government to arrive at an amicable settlement of the wage issue with the Guyana Teachers Union.

“What is even more frightening is the government’s apparent indifference to the threat of industrial action by the teachers. Rather than trying harder to arrive at an agreement, the Ministry of Education, according to reports, appears to be more concerned with hiring scab-labour to counter the teachers’ threat,” the WPA noted.

According to the party, “This insensitivity towards the teachers’ reasonable demands is at odds with President Granger’s strident education activism and advocacy for increased and improved access to quality education by our children.”

See full statement below:

WPA is dismayed by the inability of the government to arrive at an amicable settlement of the wage issue with the Guyana Teachers Union. What is even more frightening is the government’s apparent indifference to the threat of industrial action by the teachers. Rather than trying harder to arrive at an agreement, the Ministry of Education, according to reports, appears to be more concerned with hiring scab-labour to counter the teachers’ threat. This insensitivity towards the teachers’ reasonable demands is at odds with President Granger’s strident education activism and advocacy for increased and improved access to quality education by our children.

WPA stands with the teachers in their just demands for a living wage and in their civil right to take legitimate action in pursuit of those demands. Both the right to a living wage and the right to strike are sacred rights which successive generations of Guyanese fought and died for. WPA takes a dim view of any government that seeks to violate those rights and urge the leadership of the Coalition government to avoid that course of action. This government must at all cost prevent a collision with teachers—it is not good for the country or for the image of the administration.

It is no secret that a central aspect of our deteriorating public education system is the state of the teaching profession. Compared to many countries in our region, Guyanese teachers are very poorly paid. According to most informed observers this has in turn negatively affected both the morale and the quality of work of the teachers. It stands to reason, therefore, that any improvement of our education outcomes must be partly premised on improving the quality of instruction in the classrooms.

It is in that spirit that WPA unequivocally supports the teachers’ demands for increased wages. We see this as an indispensable incentive for improved teacher instruction. Improving the wage package for teachers creates the condition for government to better hold the teachers accountable for improved practice and better outcomes. Better wages for teachers will not automatically turnaround the performances of students—much more needs to be done. But if teachers are better compensated, the opportunities for more commitment by teachers would be enhanced.

From the political angle, WPA feels the government is committing political suicide by picking a fight with teachers, most of whom voted for the Coalition. It is bad politics to alienate your supporters on a matter that could be easily solved. We, therefore, urge the government to give the teachers their due. It would be an economic boost for teachers and that would have direct and indirect impacts on the state of education while ensuring that a key electoral bloc is not alienated.

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