Dr Jagdeo urges teachers not to fall prey to political opportunism

General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo has called on teachers across the country to reject the call by General Secretary of the Guyana Teacher’s Union (GTU), Coretta McDonald’s to engage in a “strike action” with effect from February 5, 2024.

During his weekly press conference at Freedom House on Thursday, Dr Jagdeo said the strike is purely political and not in the interest of any grievances suffered by teachers.

General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

He called out the leadership of the GTU, specifically Coretta McDonald, for their attempts to cause conflict and urged teachers to avoid falling prey to such disruptive agendas.

“I’ve heard some of the most racist comments coming from Coretta McDonald. She has no credibility whatsoever. [She is] vilely trying to mislead the teachers of this country in pursuit of her political agenda,” he said.

Notably, it was the same Coretta McDonald, who in 2018 said that teachers received more in terms of salary and other benefits when the PPP/C Government was in office during the pre-2015 era in comparison to what was being given to them at the time by the APNU+AFC coalition government.

Now, driven by political affiliation and not a genuine interest in the well-being of the teachers, McDonald is changing her tune, according to Dr Jagdeo.

“I think it is political opportunism and racism, and I want to say to all teachers, whether you support the PPP or APNU, that they are using this for their selfish purposes. This is a political strike,”

He continued, “We are constantly engaging the teachers. We are investing more and more in education and training, for teachers’ improvement,”

Last year, President, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali announced $1.9 billion in salary adjustments and duty-free concessions, following engagements with teachers across the country, as well as representatives of the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) and other unions.

As part of this slew of interventions, all Graduate Teachers who are holders of a relevant Bachelor’s Degree (University of Guyana, GOAL Programme) will benefit from $1 billion in salary adjustments, benefitting 4,000 teachers.

Teachers with a Bachelor’s Degree will receive an education allowance of $10,000 monthly amounting to $120,000 annually. Holders of a Master’s Degree will also receive $20,000, amounting to $240,000 annually and a teacher who holds a doctorate will receive $30,000 amounting to $360,000.

Salary increases were also announced for Graduate Senior Mistress/Heads of Department, and Graduate Senior Assistant Mistresses working in the hinterland, in addition to increases in the Remote Areas Incentive (RAI) for teachers residing in the hinterland. 

McDonald’s call to action was made because the Ministry of Education has allegedly failed to adequately fulfil the GTU’s proposals for better working conditions.

However, in an open letter to teachers issued on Tuesday, the Ministry of Education stated that of the 41 proposals made by the GTU, 25 of these have been fulfilled in less than three years. Of the remaining 16, the release advised that two are specifically for the benefit only of the GTU and its executive members, and two are contrary to the laws of Guyana.

The 12 unresolved issues are currently being examined for practical implementation and sustainability.

Additionally, a suite of measures has been implemented to improve teachers’ working conditions. These include teachers being provided termly with grants to purchase teaching materials, an increase in the stipend for CPCE pre-service trainees from $10000 to $90000, and the implementation of the EMIS system, which will eliminate most aspects of manual record keeping.

It is also important to note that, according to the Ministry of Labour, the conditions for strike action have not been met, so any such strike would be considered unlawful. Earlier this week, the minister of labour called on the GTU to follow proper protocols to address any grievances they may have.