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GTU President not truthful about negotiations with education officials – Labour Ministry

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See below the full statement issued:

 

The Ministry of Labour finds it necessary to correct and address the inaccurate assertions published by Stabroek News on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, under the headline “Stalemate continues in teachers’ pay talks” by the Guyana Teachers Union President, Dr. Mark Lyte. Specifically, the claim that “Well, the Chief Labour Officer came with some consideration, but it was only fair that the GTU put its position on the table too. So that when we took our position. We were never asked to put our position. We put our position when we thought the time was right.”

It is NOT true that the GTU was never asked to put its position. From the very start of the meeting on Monday, May 13, 2024, the GTU was provided with multiple opportunities to present its terms and conditions for resumption. In fact, the first draft of the terms of resumption was jointly drafted by GTU and the Ministry of Labour. Those terms were as follows:

There shall be an end of the strike by teachers and full resumption of work by all teachers within 72 hours.
There shall be no victimisation by either party.
There shall be no break in service and the status quo ante shall prevail.
Following the full resumption of work by all teachers, conciliation will commence on the timeframe of the proposal submitted by the GTU.

Notably, the Chief Labour Officer suggested Terms 1 (with resumption within 48 hours instead of 72), 2 and 3. The GTU presented term 4 as presented above.

Thereupon, the GTU agreed to present the above terms of resumption to the Ministry of Education (MoE). The MoE, thereafter, asked for time to consider the said terms, and the parties agreed to reconvene later on the said day (May 13, 2024) at 3:00 pm.

Upon reconvening, the MoE and GTU discussed and agreed on terms 2 and 3 and amended term 1 to 48 hours instead of 72 hours. There was no agreement on term 4 and the MoE presented three (3) alternative options and an additional term, “The above terms shall be subject to the determination of proceedings before the Court by courts of competent jurisdiction”.

The May 13, 2024, meeting ended with an agreement that the parties would consider various alternatives/options for term 4 and the GTU to reconsider the new term proposed by the MoE.

It was not until after several hours of discussion on the above term 4, at the meeting on May 14, 2024, that the GTU presented a document dated 13th May 2024, which included several terms, some of which were already agreed upon as outlined above.

From the first day and at all times, the process allowed for opportunities for both GTU and MoE to present their positions. The GTU had several opportunities to present its position or additional terms and conditions. The timing when the GTU chose to present its document with already agreed upon terms and new terms was entirely their decision, and not due to a lack of opportunity or invitation to do so.

Importantly, the position that the Ministry put forward to the GTU was that before conciliation could commence, a state of normalcy ought to prevail which is in keeping with their (GTU and MoE) 1990 Avoidance and Settlement of Disputes Agreement. The said agreement states that “During the consideration of the matter in dispute under the procedure, there shall be no strike, stoppage of work whether of a partial or general nature, go slow, boycott, picketing, retardation of production or any other interference with the Ministry’s operations, by the Union, nor shall there be any lockout or any other form of interference with the Ministry’s operations, by the Union, nor shall there be any lockout or any other form of interference by the Ministry. Both parties shall endeavour to maintain a state of normal Industrial Relations’.

The Ministry is bewildered and saddened by the assertions of the most senior GTU official who has completely deviated from the truth. Nevertheless, the Ministry remains willing to offer its guidance to both the GTU and the MoE in arriving at a solution consistent with long-standing industrial relations principles as well as the 1990 Avoidance and Settlement of Disputes Agreement between the parties.

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