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Teachers union upset at ministers’ “super” salary increases; demand higher pay, de-bunching

Teachers marching under the banner of the Guyana Teachers’ Union during May Day 2015

Disappointed that government ministers have hiked their salaries by at least 50 percent after a mere four months in office and offered a meager five percent increase in salaries; the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) is demanding more money for thousands of teachers countrywide.

GTU General Secretary, Coretta Mc Donald said the union’s executive has decided to formally indicate to the Public Service Commission of Inquiry that it is willing to make submissions for salary increases and the adjustment of the salary bands based on years of service, experience and qualifications.

Mc Donald declined to provide details about a multi-year proposal but hoped that initially teaching aids would be awarded a 20 percent increase on their GUY$52,000 salary.  For example, a Grade B graduate nursery school teacher is about GUY$80,000 to GUY$91,000. A trained teacher could earn about GUY$69,000 to $92,000 based on the salary band.

“Our cry is not a cry that the ministers have been crying quite recently and you would know that the teachers that we represent are not teachers who would have been there for three months or four months,” she told Demerara Waves Online News in apparent reference to the coalition-led government which has been in office since May following general elections.

The GTU has already submitted proposals for salary increases for the 2015- 2020 period ahead of expected negotiations that would see the estimated 8,000 teachers earn a gradual rather static increase over the next five years.  Mc Donald declined to provide details of the proposal because the two sides have not yet met.

She took umbrage to the government justifying increasing ministers’ salaries on the grounds that they needed quality people to be paid more than an estimated GUY$560,000 per month. “We should all be because when you decide to become a minister, you would have decided that you want to be a servant of the people so it’s actually a voluntary job; it’s not a job where you get all these super-salaries so if after four months they can have that approved for them, what about the teachers,” she said. Mc Donald said teachers were not asking for the allowances, just salaries.

The GTU General Secretary said teachers felt deceived by the A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition did not keep its promise to pay the teachers higher than other government employees.  “We are quite disappointed because I remember on May 1s, teachers were told ‘not to worry, we got your back, this is what you will get’ only to recognise that come July, they got five percent.

Government awarded a five percent increase in teachers’ salaries in the 2015 National Budget, about half of what Mc Donald said teachers had expected.

Mc Donald did not rule out teachers taking industrial action if they are not paid more, regardless of which political party is in office.

President David Granger has linked job-creation to having a properly educated nation. He said the promised increase in teachers’ salaries would be addressed by the Public Service Commission of Inquiry.