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‘Let sense prevail’ – Manickchand flags learning losses as conciliation talks in deadlock

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As the Education Ministry and the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) continue conciliation talks, subject Minister Priya Manickchand has called for “sense to prevail”, noting that any disruptions will result in learning losses for students.

“Any teacher who stays away from a classroom will cause some disruption and it will have a negative impact on the system and on children and we are concerned about that,” Manickchand said at a press conference in Kingston, Georgetown on Tuesday.

Teachers resumed street protests as part of strike action on Monday while union representatives met with education officials for conciliation talks at the Ministry of Labour. Those talks continued into Tuesday afternoon without little progress towards ending the strike.

That strike action is largely because of what has been termed a “deadlock” on salary increases.

Officials at the Ministry of Education meeting with the representatives of the Guyana Teachers’ Union in the Ministry’s boardroom to continue discussions on relevant matters of interest to both parties. [Photo: MOE/ March 07, 2024]“The deadlock is the Union saying they want salary increases from 2019 to 2023 and the ministry or the Government of Guyana is saying we are ready, willing and happy to engage on salary from 2024 onwards,” Manickchand explained.

So now both sides are trying to figure out how they can move past this deadlock and perhaps what compromises may be necessary. The Education Minister said it was, however, premature to comment on the unfolding conciliation process.

She, however, advised teachers against being led astray, insinuating that the Union may be politically- influenced. For her, all parties must figure out the best way forward possible.

“I am calling on everyone to let sense prevail, let humanity prevail.

“Every day lost is a day we cannot get back and while we will do what we can in the ministry to recover what is lost, I am advising that it is better to prevent than to fix,” she said.

An initial five-week strike began on February 5, with teachers demanding higher salary increases and duty-free concessions, among other benefits.

After a court-mediated process in March, talks between the Education Ministry and GTU resumed. However, discussions halted when the Education Ministry indicated that there was no fiscal space to cater for increases for the period 2019 -2023.

On April 19, a court ruling by Judge Sandil Kissoon stated that teachers’ salaries should not be reduced because of their involvement in the previous five-week strike organised by the GTU. That ruling will soon be appealed; the government currently awaits the written decision of Justice Kissoon before the appeal is filed.

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