“If you’re going to talk right to us and give us a livable wage, we’re going to accept that.”
Those were the words of General Secretary of the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU), Coretta McDonald as she addressed over 100 teachers who are on strike, to protest the Government’s position on salary increases.
The teachers from Region Four gathered in front of the Ministry of Education’s 26 Brickdam Office Monday morning with placards bearing slogans; ‘Teachers are not selfish, we just need to be adequately compensated’, ‘Don’t dilly- dally’ and ‘Fair Wage’ among others.
There are also protests in front of the Education Ministry’s office in the other regions across the country.
McDonald explained that the Union is not demanding a 40% increase in salaries across the board.
“All we are saying is that you give us something substantial in the first year and the remaining years of the agreement, we are willing to accept five per cent. How much more lower than that can we go?” she questioned.
Speaking to an animated group of teachers who shouted, “Give us our money!”, McDonald exclaimed that minibus fares have increased, the Guyana Water Inc. has increased its tariffs and there is a general increase in the cost of living.
“I’m wondering if while they’re saying to us be patient, why they couldn’t wait for 2018 or 2019 or 2020 to get the 50%,” the Union representative said, referring to a 50% increase given to Government Ministers months after they were elected to office in 2015.
McDonald proposed that the Government officials switch their salaries with Teachers for one month and then give a feedback. She said the Education Minister, Nicolette Henry “is unreasonable.”
The Education Ministry had proposed a $700M ballpark figure to pay teachers following initial negotiations with the union. However, President of the GTU, Mark Lyte told the media that this amount, when divided to give to each teacher, will only amount to $5,000 per teacher.
Referring to comments made by Labour Minister, Keith Scott who described teachers are “selfish and uncaring,” the GTU General Secretary said the Minister is “heartless.”
Scot, whose Ministry is the mediator between the Education Ministry and the Union, was addressing the Bursary Awards Ceremony of the Guyana Public Service Co-operative Credit Union (GPSCCU) on Friday.
The matter is currently at the level of conciliation.
On Wednesday last, the Union proposed to call off the strike action if the Ministry accepts certain conditions which included that the two parties head into arbitration to resolve issues but the Ministry refused.
McDonald said all Minister Scott has done is “cement our case that we have no faith in them [the Government].”