The New Today

Commentary

Honour your commitment now

Adrian “Persuader” Thomas – NDC’s Acting Party Leader

A variety of adjectives have been used to describe the address given by the Minister of Education on Wednesday night, on the ongoing industrial action by teachers. These adjectives include:  brazen, condescending, hypocritical, inciting dissent, inconsiderate, mischievous, plainly untrue, utterly disrespectful.

In a nutshell, the Minister said to teachers that they are getting enough already, so they should keep their collective behinds quiet. She irrationally expressed that government will not acknowledge its contractual obligations, because it has a civic and a moral responsibility to protect the nation’s future, our children. Brazen. Disrespectful. Inconsiderate.

Of course, she did not say how refusing to pay teachers what is contractually due, is furthering that civic and moral responsibility of government. Neither did she appear to understand that government’s behavior is in fact sending a bad message to our young ones, that it is okay to not keep your promises.  Condescending. Hypocritical.

The Minister bragged that government is spending millions of dollars on various initiatives to develop the education sector, but those do not include paying the teachers the 4% increment agreed. The justification is that teachers get a lot already, from various allowances to concession on vehicles for principals. She totally ignored the many financial and other sacrifices that teachers make every day to support students. Condescending. Disrespectful. Inconsiderate.

On behalf of her government, the Minister claimed that teachers and public offers went for the entire period of the previous NDC administration without increases and by contrast, they got several increases since 2013. The Minister conveniently forgot that just prior to the 2008 elections, the NNP, in usual style, to win votes, signed an agreement with unions for increments and back pay. When the NDC got into office, we honored that commitment in full. Teachers and public officers did not have to protest to get payment. The Minister and her government are also pretending to forget that due to the structural adjustment program, there was a wage freeze between 2013 and 2016. The unions negotiated for increases and back pay in 2017. Up to now, not one cent has been paid. Brazen. Mischievous. Plainly untrue.

In one breath the Minister said there is no money to pay the 4%. Yet, in another she said there is money, just not for teachers! She then accused the teachers of shortchanging our children by the industrial action, but ignores the fact that all this government does, is shortchange all the people by its reckless financial decisions. Rather than investing in our people, government wasted more than $200 million on a Grenlec vendetta. In the middle of the pandemic, government secured a $150 million loan for the airport and now is paying $1 million a month to support operations. Is government also servicing that massive loan? Government is about to spend $30 million on traffic lights when hundreds of wardens are already controlling traffic. They spend hundreds of thousands monthly on party goons and hacks, holding made up, advisory posts. Yet, they refuse to pay our hardworking teachers and public workers. Brazen. Condescending. Inconsiderate. Hypocritical. Utterly disrespectful.

These incendiary remarks by the Minister, were laced with subliminal undertones, to rile up parents and the nation against the teachers, who are accused of leaving the children unattended to go out and protest. Then for good measure, she calls the Almighty in aid and throws in a Bible verse! Hypocritical. Mischievous. Inciting dissent.

If what came through from the good Minister, reflects the attitude of the Government Negotiating Team behind closed doors, then it is clear, that the teachers and public officers need us now more than ever, to stand in full solidarity with them.

Teachers, public workers, police and prison officers, the NDC stands with you. The NDC pledges that in government, we will pay you what is rightfully yours; just as we did during or last term.

(The above was submitted by the main opposition National Democratic Congress)