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…backed by FITUG, GTUC…no plans to attend conciliation talksBy Rupadai SeenaraineInfuriated by the remarks recently made by the junior Social Protection Minister Keith Scott, the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) is demanding an apology, adding that it confirms their conviction of the Labour Department’s position on the salary increase situation. It was reported in sections of the media that the Minister blatantly referred to the teachers as being “selfish and uncaring” because of their decision to strike for better wages and benefits. This remark triggered a response from the GTU, demanding that the Minister apologise for his choice of words.Speaking to a large gathering of teachers on Monday, GTU General Secretary, Coretta McDonald stated that this comes in light of the fact that the Union had expressed their uncertainty towards the Labour Department last week when asked to be the mediator in their dispute with the Education Ministry.“We serve an Almighty God and did you recognise what he did. He confused the Honourable Keith Scott and allowed him to make a statement in support of us. We said to them on Friday and Thursday, we have no faith in the Department of Labour and they were upset with us. They said we were disrespectful,” said McDonald as she charged the teachers to stand by their decision.She explained that the action by the Minister proves that their suspicions were accurate, and any decision taken by the department would have been biased or in favour of the Education Ministry during the process. Loud cheers emanated at GTU headquarters as the teachers pledged their support and acknowledged what was said.“Imagine the people who want to mediate in between this story already taking sides and then they want us, the teachers who would’ve created all professions to trust them,” the General Secretary added.At that time, McDonald sought to point out that they will uphold their decision towards the continuation of the strike with no intention or interest in attending the conciliation talks which were organised by the Ministry. It was further indicated that they have “forgiven” the Minister for his comments.“The Minister himself said it. So what else do we want? Do we want to go to conciliation? No, we’re not silly people. We are the educated ones. We’re teaching them. We will not retreat until respect is given to us. Teachers have always been caring but the boy get mix up with the words. We’ll forgive him. We understand that process.”Defending the actions to strike for increased salary and better benefits, it was repeated that educators are being subjected to minimal wages while performing beyond the call of duty. Additionally, the “selfish and” uncaring” remark does not mirror the performance of the students in both the primary and secondary levels.“We are being paid the lowest of the scale and imagine we’re ‘selfish and uncaring’ and every year Guyana topping at CSEC? This year we would’ve had improvements in Maths and English at CSEC and at the CSEC level,” the General Secretary posited.“Imagine our Labour Department will turn to say that teachers are selfish and uncaring. Where is our Minister Keith Scott when our nursery school teachers are present at 06:30h in the mornings? Where is the Honourable Nicolette Henry when our teachers are at school at 03:30h in the afternoon?” she questioned.Meanwhile, calls for an apology on the part of the Minister were also echoed from the Federation of Independent Trade Unions in Guyana (FITUG) and the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), who asserted that Minister Scott’s statement required an apology.“This most astonishing statement by the Minister, who incidentally is responsible for the Department of Labour, is a clear demonstration of the Administration’s concern for the workers plight and troubles that have beset them in the era of the ‘Good Life’ coalition. The statement by the Minister, in our view, further unmasks the APNU/AFC Government and it reveals its true colours,” FITUG stated on Monday.An appeal was also made for the President David Granger to give ‘serious consideration and profound thought’ as to whether Scott is suited to serve as the political head of the Labour Department.Meanwhile, the GTUC said this is not the first time such utterances were made by the Minister and further sought to ask the perceptible question as to whether this is also a representation of the Government’s position on the matter.Educators from all corners of the country are currently protesting for ‘a liveable wage’ and they were seen protesting in front of schools, ministries and education departments on the first day of the academic year.
The three NAFTA countries are in Washington trying to come to terms on the broad outlines of an interim agreement.Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, dined with her U.S. and Mexican counterparts last night, and the three are in meetings Friday.Sources say that if there is to be such an agreement in the coming weeks, Friday’s meetings will be key.What remains unclear is what form such a deal might take.One trade insider says there are two realistic possibilities for a quick deal.According to Eric Miller, one is a very preliminary statement where the countries agree to general principles and resume detailed negotiations after July’s election in Mexico.The second possibility, Miller says, is a modest revamp of NAFTA he describes as the South Korea model: the U.S. recently agreed to less-drastic-than-expected changes to its agreement with the Koreans.But several sources both inside and outside government are skeptical that a bona-fide, wide-ranging renegotiated NAFTA is possible this spring.It’s unclear the countries have even discussed in any detailed way key sticking points like dairy. Yves Leduc of the Dairy Farmers of Canada says he’s in Washington following the discussions, and whether his sector is part of them.The talks lately have revolved around one key industry: autos.Multiple sources say the U.S. has softened its earlier demands, and is now presenting a proposal that would encourage production in high-wage jurisdictions _ namely, the U.S. and Canada.The U.S. proposal is based on the idea of granting credits to parts-makers that pay wages beyond $15 per hour. Higher salaries would help auto makers meet the proposed U.S. floor of 85 per cent North American parts for a car to avoid a tariff.It’s an extension of a Canadian proposal from January. Canada proposed doing away with an old list for counting parts, and replacing it with a new formula that credits jurisdictions for producing high-value content.