AS would have been expected, during the teachers’ strike, there were a number of references to the coalition government’s 50 per cent pay rise in its very early days of assuming the reins of executive responsibility. Such was expected, since it has become a means of scoring what are really cheap political points by the critics, especially the parliamentary opposition party.
But how justified have these critics been? Maybe, one can question the timing of the government’s announcement of such an increase, given the fact that there were not any increases allotted before such an announcement, to the nation’s public service; as well as Minister Trotman’s prior denial that such had not been in the making, when questioned by the media.
Reading the views of some of these critics, there is definitely an unfair and prejudiced line of understanding as far as the practicality of the 50 per cent hike is concerned. Not surprisingly, these very critics of the 50 per cent increase seem somehow to have forgotten the unexplained triple-digit per cent increase given to Bharrat Jagdeo, before he demitted the presidency.
First, not every minister of government benefitted from this increase. This had been clearly explained by the government. Secondly, given the reported anomalies that had been reported to be existing ever since as regards the Cabinet in the former PPP/C government, then it was only logical that adjustments be made at that time; for how could there have been the illogical situation where both senior and junior ministers in some instances were at the same level of earnings? Thirdly, though I do support the view that becoming a Cabinet member was a matter of service to the nation, and of choice, and that it should not be a matter of how much is earned, one should be realistic that these men and women still have to live, and tend to their families’ needs, particularly where there are financial commitments.
Editor, we live in a society that continues to exude a brand of hypocrisy that is driven by the factors of political affiliation and, of course, race. Thus, it becomes mentally laborious to read, much less to understand the twisted logic and unfair arguments applied to seminal issues which the nation continues to face. The teachers’ strike represents this point of view.
I am convinced that the last situation that this current government would have wanted on its daily governance agenda is an industrial action, particularly in such a key sector as education — the education professionals. And though it has been reminded in some of those criticisms, particularly from those which said that government has the ability to meet the pay demands of the educators, they failed to take into consideration the fact that any wages increase has to be first applied, to the means of sustaining its payment.
No one has had the moral courage or decency of mind to mention the painful subsidy of
$32B that averted what would have been socio-economic crises of untold proportions, because of the criminal mismanagement of the sugar industry.
It was particularly instructive that the very past leaders who bear both an official and moral responsibility for what is certainly the destruction of a once mighty industry, were among the principals attacking the government over the unpaid half of the severance pay to those terminated workers whose package is in excess of $500,000. They have conveniently forgotten that the coalition has had to find the astronomical sum, at taxpayers’ expense, to re-float a key state economic earner, and employer, which they had sunk.
Of course, one does recall the promises to teachers made by the coalition when they had campaigned as an opposition party. Of course, they do deserve better financial rewards.
However, given the crisis that faced the sugar industry and the threat to the livelihoods of so many thousands of sugar workers, it became evident that expectations in that direction of the education sector, especially, had to be lowered. One does not have to be a mathematician to calculate what that multi-billion dollar, given to avert the human crises among the nation’s cane harvesters, could have done to sectors such as the medical professionals, police, and of course, educators.
GuySuCo has been rescued, as the government is in the process of re-positioning its management and critical production sections; however, the process of re-alignment has been at the expense of other critical state sectors. A fact which those who have criticised the government for not acquiescing to the teachers’ demands have ignored or conveniently forgotten.