Gov’t prepared to work on multi-year agreement from 2024 with teachers – GS Jagdeo

General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, has underscored that the government is prepared to work on a multi-year agreement from 2024 with teachers.  

He was at the time speaking at his weekly press conference at Freedom House when questioned if wages and salary demands by teachers are the result of a lack of finances.

People’s Progressive Party (PPP) General Secretary, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo engaging media operatives at Freedom House on Thursday

“So, what we have said to the teachers is that we are prepared to work on the multi-year agreement going forward. You want a multi-year agreement. Let us start with 2024, 2025, 2026…A three- or five-year multi-year agreement like we had in the past. They are insisting on going back to not only 2019 but 2017. That we must go back and fix all the increases that they didn’t get under APNU too,” he explained.

On May 9, teachers in Guyana began a second round of strikes, which sparked talks that started on May 13 and continued until May 14.

Despite the government’s willingness to negotiate teacher compensation increases starting in 2024, the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTI) insists on retroactive hikes from 2019 to 2023. The GTU has sought a 20% compensation before teachers agree to return to work.  They have hinted that they are willing to negotiate the package from the period 2022 – 2025.

He further outlined the government’s developmental agenda to propel the growth of the country.

“Our expenditure on the recurrent level for wages and salaries in the public sector in three areas – central government, the statutory bodies and public corporations – have grown from about $120 billion in 2020 to $210 billion in these three categories. That is a massive growth in public sector wages,” GS Jagdeo emphasised.

He stressed that regardless of the price of oil or future revenue flow, all of this growth would need to be supported in the future.

“It means that you have about $80 to $90 billion more of disposable income to people. That is only from the public sector that has be to financed. We said that the revenue flow in future years will be able, through a sovereign wealth fund when invested, to sustain higher levels of remuneration in the future,” Dr Jagdeo noted.

In the future, he stressed that Guyana’s revenue will grow to $10 billion a year.

“We are under $2 billion now. So, in the future, you will be able to see more increases in wages and salaries,” he added.

The general secretary emphasised that, during the last three years, the government has utilised one-third of the proceeds from oil and gas to carry out the budget’s programmes alone in the housing sector.

In light of this, the government is implementing strategic initiatives and allocating funds to build the nation for 2030 and beyond, where every citizen’s standard of living will improve.

“So, you have to sustain everything you do…We have to move forward to get better infrastructure so that people can have healthcare and education. We believe that we have to prepare the future for non-oil growth…” GS Jagdeo stated.

The government remains firm towards the incentivisation of new industries so that it does not become solely dependent on oil and gas for future revenue, in the unlikely event that oil and gas prices decline globally.

Major incentives are being channelled into the productive sectors of the economy. These are being done through the tax system by lowering taxes in those sectors or direct injection to the sectors by supporting a range of other business activities including the production of cassava, corn and soya. 

“It is a complete strategy; it is not focused only on wages and salaries. That is the only way it is sustainable and can bring benefits in the long run for Guyana…” he stated.