“Opposition leader tried to maximize on teachers’ grievances” – PM Nagamootoo

─ there have been significant improvements in the teaching profession under this administration  

DPI, Guyana, Monday, September 10, 2018

Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo has stated that the Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo is attempting to maximize on the grievances of teachers.

In his weekly ‘My Turn’ column, the Prime Minister noted that the opposition leader tried to stoke the strike by telling a section of the media that the teachers’ demands were “legitimate”. According to the Prime Minister, the opposition leader seemed to be unaware that the week-long industrial action was over, and therefore he was left with the “proverbial gasoline” in his hand.

Genuine grievances

Prime Minister Nagamootoo stated that no one ever questioned whether the teachers had genuine grievances, and though only a small section of the teaching staff actually went on strike, civil society was generally in sympathy with teachers.

Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo.

The action of the teachers fell under provisions of both the Labour Act and, more particularly, an agreement made in 1983 that governs the settlement of disputes. It provides for stages in the dispute resolution process: settlement, conciliation and arbitration.

Both the teachers’ union and the Department of Labour have concluded that conciliation has failed, and opted for arbitration, at which stage a decision on the issues would be final and binding. During the arbitration period, it was agreed that there would be no strike, stoppage of work, go slow, boycott or picketing on the part of the union. While on the part of the Ministry of Education, there would be no recrimination, loss of pay, no lockout or interference with the arbitration process.

Noble profession

The Prime Minister noted that the Coalition Government gave teachers an unprecedented scale of salary increases ranging in 2016 between 10 to 6 per cent and in 2017 between 8 to 6 per cent. The lowest paid teachers received the higher percentage increases.

The Prime Minister reminded that under the Jagdeo presidency when the economy was in the red zone, an across-the-board, “full and final” 7 per cent was paid for 2005. The standard, “band you waist” five per cent was allowed for all succeeding years between 2006 and 2015.

Having given those increases, as indicated above for 2016 and 2017, and explaining that it could not afford anything better at this time, the Coalition Government placed on the table an offer of $710M for an increase in salaries for 2018. In addition, it made available $200M for “de-bunching” to rectify anomalies in salary scales.

Non-salaried package

The Coalition Government committed to improving, even marginally, the non-salaried status quo and conditions of employment, as follows: –

  • Improved monthly qualifications allowances, clothing allowance, Whitley Council allowance; to be paid in June of the year of entitlement. Teachers will continue to receive Whitley Council Leave and Allowance every four years.
  • Annual Leave, in addition to the customary Easter, August and Christmas break. Principals and Deputy Principals of Technical Trade/Craft Institutions are granted one month’s leave during the students’ vacation.
  • Duty-Free Concession – Teachers will be granted duty-free concessions per year in keeping with the agreed categories and eligibility criteria. This includes duty-free concessions for motor vehicles and ATV Mountain bikes, thirty teachers will continue to receive scholarships for a period of four years, at the University of Guyana.
  • Additionally, 20 scholarship will be granted to teachers to pursue Science at the University of Guyana.
  • Hinterland Benefits, the policy will be enforced to ensure that teachers and their families who serve in the Interior are given, once per year, a return fare to the Coastland, Housing Fund, among other benefits

Marked improvements

Prime Minister Nagamootoo highlighted that apart from the allowances, there have been marked improvements in the teaching sector, which include major infrastructural upgrades to school buildings and facilities.

Monthly stipends for students at Cyril Potter College and Linden Pre-Service centres have been increased in 2018 by 73 per cent for Resident and 53 per cent for non-resident trainees. The stipends increased from average $5,300 to $9,000 (Resident) and to $11,000 (Non-Resident).

Since taking office, the new government has distributed a total of 9,213 laptop computers to teachers, and more than 5,500 teachers have been trained in Basic Computer Literacy by the ICT Unit, Ministry of Education. Additionally, 84 secondary schools, 89 primary schools, 21 tertiary education, training and skills-building institutions and nine technical-vocational training schools have been connected to the e-Government network and provided with free access to the internet. Further, some 120 ICT Hubs have been established, and both teachers and students can access the internet free of cost.

Prime Minister Nagamootoo noted that the GTU should justifiably feel betrayed that “not a cent” has been disbursed by the former government under the Housing Revolving Fund, and that the promise of 100 house lots each year for teachers was not kept. However, there is no evidence to sustain the argument that things were better off for teachers under the former government unless the statement asserting that was intended as a subtle political message to the government folks in green to do better for its constituency.

By: Gabreila Patram.

Image: Department of Public Information.