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Bharrat Jagdeo is out of order. This is demonstrated not only in his ongoing efforts at sowing seeds of discord in a nation striving to heal historical wounds from political and ethnic conflicts but also with his blatant contempt for the rule of law and the rights of some citizens. This matter of the teachers proceeding on industrial action is the result of a lawless regime that continues to trample time-honoured principles. They have done this without suffering the brunt of sufficient societal consternation, condemnation and uprising (protest, work stoppage, and through credible ballot that would result in their removal).
The causative factor(s) influencing the teachers’ strike are simple- the strike is the result of the Bharrat Jagdeo/Irfaan Ali regime disregard for the right of the teachers to collective bargaining at outlined in Article 147 of the Constitution of Guyana, and abrogation of the employer’s obligation under Section 23(1) of the Trade Union Recognition Act to negotiate with the Union in good faith. Had the regime honoured its obligation and respect the teachers’ right, there would not have been a strike today, a freedom also protected in the Constitution of Guyana at Article 147.
This nation must not allow itself to be diverted from the issue at hand by following Jagdeo down a rabbit hole in the regime’s effort to abrogate its obligation to be at the bargaining table with the Teachers Union. This continuous and selective transgression of some citizens and groups’ rights in this society must not be countenanced by us, under no guise to deflect. Should we today condone the regime’s lawlessness and unjustified attacks on the teachers, tomorrow they will continue this disrespect and disregard to all other sectors, including the business community, who are already feeling the pressure from the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) excesses. Let us not be fooled, all are at risk.
Issues raised by Jagdeo in efforts to justify the regime’s failure to honour its obligations under the law have no bearing on collective bargaining. The trade union’s internal affairs, whether finance or otherwise, is not the government/employer’s business but that of the membership. The money he refers to that the government gave to the Teachers Union has absolutely no bearing on the industrial situation. Society must not be misled by this red herring.
Likewise, President Irfaan Ali’s statement that the teachers must have patience because his regime is committed to improving working conditions, this is not only a matter of paying the teachers, but also about respecting the teachers’ rights and sitting at the bargaining table with their elected representatives. At the same time, there is no reason for Ali to ask teachers to have patience when Guyana has the money and can afford to pay. The fact is that the regime does not have the will to pay and has no care or consideration for those who are suffering.
Those officials who are seeking to deceive the nation that the teachers’ conditions of work are consistent with the modern class setting and remuneration, do so because they don’t care. It is not lost on the nation that the PPP, in opposition, condemned the salary increases the A Partnership of National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) ministers paid themselves.
However, when they entered office, rather than remove what they claimed was an offending amount, each year they added to the obscenity. This amount to date is in excess of $300,000 each month for the average minister. The increase is roughly the salary for two trained assistant mistresses or masters. This is unconscionable, a deliberate widening of the gap between the haves and have-nots with taxpayers’ money, as workers who shoulder the nation’s debt repayment are asked to bear strain.
The PPP regime is the nation’s problem and we the people must be the solution. As they enjoy tax-free salary and other emoluments, the ordinary workers are catching hell to make ends meet and their salaries are subjected to taxes. Something is definitely wrong with this picture and this nation must not be fooled with Jagdeo’s misrepresentation and efforts to deceive.
The teachers deserve no less than our support for they not only mould our children’s minds for development but also provide an important custodial role for parents as they are in the workforce turning the wheels of production. In the presence of these glaring transgressions and violations by the Jagdeo/Ali regime, every right-thinking Guyanese must be a protector and defender of our teachers, laws and constitution. Supporting the nation’s teachers is a fight for our children who are the future of our nation.
People of Guyana, the future of our country is at stake.