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GTU case: Govt appeals High Court Judge’s ruling that striking teachers be paid

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The Guyana Government is moving to reverse the decision of High Court Judge, Justice Sandil Kissoon, who had ruled just over a month ago that teachers who were on a five-week strike should be paid and that the Education Ministry must continue to the deduct union dues on behalf of the Guyana Teachers Unions (GTU).
On Wednesday, one day after receiving the written High Court judgement, the Attorney General Chambers filed the challenge in the Appeal Court, seeking “…an order setting aside the whole of the decision of the Honourable Mr. Justice Sandil Kissoon…”
In a marathon ruling last month, Justice Kissoon found that the recent five-week GTU-led strike action by teachers across Guyana was “legal and legitimate.”
Initially slated for two-week but ended up running for over a month, the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) organised the countrywide strike, which started on February 5, calling for better pay and working conditions. Government had labelled the industrial action as illegal and consequently, announced plans to cut the salary of those teachers who did not show up to work for over a month and to also stop deducting union dues from the wages and salaries of teachers.
However, the High Court Judge, in his April 19 ruling on the case filed by the GTU to challenge the government’s decisions, had found that the teachers were justified in their strike action since there was no proper collective bargaining between the Education Ministry and the union, which had a multi-year agreement that included salary increases for the period 2019 to 2023.
The High Court judge found that any move to deduct or withhold the salaries of those teachers on strike would be “arbitrary, unlawful, unreasonable and unconstitutional.” Similarly, he also ruled that government acted “arbitrarily” when it halted the deduction of union dues from teachers’ salaries.
According to Justice Kissoon, “…the right to strike, like the right to engage in collective bargaining, is firmly embedded in the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed to every citizen of Guyana under the Constitution…”

Grounds of appeal
However, the AG argued in his grounds of appeal that the High Court Judge “erred and misdirected himself in law when, he having found that the Applicant’s pleadings could not withstand judicial scrutiny, he failed and/or refused to strike out the pleadings as being frivolous, vexatious, and as disclosing no cause of action… erred in law in considering issues which were not properly and adequately pleaded or pleaded at all, and which did not fall to be determined by the Court.”
It added, that the judge also erred “…when he held that the ‘no work no pay’ principle was raised by the pleadings as an issue to be determined” and “… when he found that there is no difference between a right to strike and the freedom to strike, notwithstanding that the Constitution of Guyana, Chap. 1:01 does not provide for a right to strike, rather, the freedom to strike is expressly guaranteed by Article 147 of the Constitution.”
The appeal document further detailed that “The Learned Trial Judge erred and misdirected himself in law when he held that thestrike action called by a trade union was ‘justified’, and that the ‘no work no pay’ principle had no applicability, and that the employer was required to pay wages which had not been earned, contrary tu and in contravention of the provisions of the Labour Act, Chap. 98:01.”
Another ground in the appeal was that “The Learned Trial Judge erred in law and fact when he found that the Government’s discontinuation of the gratuitous deduction of union dues and the remittance of the same to the Respondent Guyana Teachers Union constituted a direct interference with the Union’s right to collective bargaining as guaranteed by Article 147 of the Constitution.”
Even as the Government is moving to appeal this matter, teachers have again resumed strike action to once again pressure the government into negotiating increased salaries from 2019 to 2023, a position that the government has already rejected.
The Education Ministry this week released a statement insisting that the GTU acts in good faith and honours the 1990 agreement that the reconciliation process be followed.
The ministry said, “Conciliation cannot commence until the strike has ended and a state of normalcy returns.” It reiterated its readiness to work together to determine a multi-year agreement from 2024. (G8)

The post GTU case: Govt appeals High Court Judge’s ruling that striking teachers be paid appeared first on Guyana Times.

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