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Teachers’ strike continues as another Govt-GTU meeting ends in deadlock

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– MoE reiterates will not negotiate under duress
– as GTU remains hopeful that agreement can be reached

Teachers across the country will continue to strike as another meeting between the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) and the Ministry of Education ended with the two sides failing to reach a compromise.
Monday’s meeting convened at the Labour Ministry’s Brickdam Office took an unusual turn as the Education Ministry refused to grant several requests made by the union including the demand for an interim 20 per cent across-the-board salary payment for teachers before the continuation of negotiation on the payment period for the multi-year agreement.
Guyana Times understands that the union was willing to negotiate the proposed salary increase, most likely reducing the requested percentage, however, the ministry reaffirmed its refusal noting that the Guyana Government will not negotiate under duress.
The MoE stated in a release that it maintained that there be strict adherence to the 1990 agreement and that the grievance procedure be followed as per the said agreement.
In this regard, the ministry indicated to GTU that they must end the strike before conciliation can commence on the impasse.

Chief Labour Officer (CLO) Dhaneshwar Deonarine greeting members of the GTU

“The Ministry of Education insists that the Guyana Teachers’ Union acts in good faith and honours this agreement. Conciliation cannot commence until the strike has ended and a state of normalcy returns. The Ministry of Education reiterates its readiness to work together to determine a multi-year agreement from 2024.”
Nevertheless, Minister of Labour, Joseph Hamilton confirmed to the Guyana Times that the meeting ended in stalemate and that no date has been set for future meetings.
Meanwhile, GTU contends that the “stalled discussions have created a climate of uncertainty, with potential implications for the country’s education system” but it remains hopeful that a fair and equitable agreement can be reached, ensuring that teachers receive the recognition and compensation they deserve for their invaluable contributions to society.
This is according to the union’s General Secretary Coretta McDonald, who told this publication that the body will not call off the strike again without guaranteed benefits for the nation’s teachers.
“Today’s engagement at the Ministry of Labour with the Ministry of Education, in our minds, was just time-wasting. Because when we think that we are going to be sitting there and arriving at a position, every suggestion, every option, everything that has been put forward by the Guyana Teachers Union has been met with a no from the Ministry of Education…The Ministry’s take on this is, that before any discussion could be had, teachers must resume duty. The Union will not go that way again, because we have done this in good faith before. Where we put aside everything, and we went there, we sat with the officials from the Ministry of Education, and we prioritised how we were going to discuss the issues stated, and yet, that was overturned when we met four days later. And so, we’re not prepared to resume duty without any form of surety coming from the Ministry of Education,” McDonald added.
McDonald further stated that the union is disappointed at the Ministry’s decision to cancel the sitting of the end-of-year examinations in schools, noting that this position can affect the understanding of the learners’ true potential as they advance to new levels within the school system.
On this point, she reiterated that the union doesn’t desire for students to suffer from learning loss but their educators must be able to work in comfortable environments.

Executive members of the GTU at the meeting on Monday

“But let me say this, the engagement of our learners and the comfort of our teachers is a priority to the GTU. We want our teachers to be comfortable. Our teachers must be properly compensated. And I want to reassure our parents that the teachers of this country, for the Guyana Teachers Union, the Central Executive Offices of the Guyana Teachers Union, we have nothing against your children. There is no struggle between your child or your children and us. We love them. We want them to be in school,” she added.
Proposed 20 per cent for teachers
On day two of conciliation talks held between the Ministry of Education and the GTU, a document citing a demand for an interim 20 per cent across-the-board salary payment for teachers was presented to the Chief Labour Officer by Representatives of the GTU.
According to reports, the Union requested that the increase be paid to teachers before any conciliation regarding the timeframe for the payment period for salary increases continues.
The demand made by the GTU is aside from monies to be paid to teachers when a payment period for the multi-year agreement is decided upon.
Additionally, the union requested that Labor Minister Joseph Hamilton recuse himself from the negotiations process.
Before this, both parties had agreed on terms of a resumption agreement and were prepared to sign said document presented by the union, so that there is no victimisation of either party.
The document stipulated 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.
During a press conference on Wednesday (May 15), Education Minister Priya Manickchand made it clear that the Guyana Government will not sign off on the union’s request, noting that the body is setting a “very bad precedent, not only for the Guyana government, but for governments across the region”.
It was also explained by the Minister that after Monday (May 20) Government will take action against the union and distance learning will be instituted in homes to combat the current learning loss.

“We have a standing sacred almost duty to make sure that we look after children and anything that comes in the way of that has to be treated condignly and swiftly with solutions”.
“I hope that the same members in that union body can take the union back and bring it to that place (of being reasonable) so that on Monday we end up with a resolution and conciliation agreement where we go to the table and engage in the conciliation process. If that breaks down then there is a place for arbitration,” The Minister said at the time.

Conciliation talks
The Guyana Teacher’s Union (GTU) and the Guyana Government through the Ministry of Education (MOE) on Monday met for conciliation talks regarding the ongoing teachers’ strike, which resumed last Thursday, May 9, 2024.
This was facilitated following the issuance of a letter from the Official of the Education Ministry to the Labour Ministry requesting that its Subject Minister Joseph Hamilton intervene in the matter with the GTU.
The request made by the Education Ministry was provided for under the provisions of the 1990 Memorandum of Agreement “the avoidance and settlement of disputes” between the Government of Guyana and the Guyana Teachers’ Union and the Labour Act, Cap. 98:01, which allows the impasse in respect of the timeframe to be referred to the Labour Minister for Conciliation.
It is said that the engagement is part of efforts to agree on the period in which teachers will be paid, which the government should commence from 2024 onwards, however, GTU wants the talks to be centred from 2019 to 2024.

Resumption of strike
The Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) resumed strike action across the country on Thursday last, after talks between the union and Education Ministry reportedly broke down.
Teachers had only on March 6 returned to the classroom, after striking for some four weeks.
As a result, the teachers, through their union, ended the strike and agreed to return to discussions with the government regarding salary increases.
When the strike had ended, the Union and the government were engaged in discussions on issues affecting teachers.
McDonald later told media operatives that the decision to resume the strike was because the union believed nothing was forthcoming from the Government as it relates to collective bargaining.
The government has already addressed over 20 issues affecting teachers, aimed at improving their working conditions and overall welfare.
In fact, at the time of the last strike, President Dr Irfaan Ali had reminded that he had already met with teachers across the country and outlined the government’s plan to improve their livelihoods.
Moreover, Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo had calculated that at the end of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government’s first term in office, graduate teachers would have benefited from salary increases amounting to nearly 50 per cent.
Further, on April 19, the High Court ruled in favour of the GTU and stipulated that teachers’ salaries should not be deducted following their participation in the recent strike.
The High Court had also ruled against the government’s decision to discontinue the deduction of union dues from the salaries of teachers for the GTU.
This came on the heels of the Guyana Government’s refusal to negotiate salary increases for the period December 2019 to 2023 but instead was ready to do so for a multi-year agreement starting in 2024.
Attorney General Anil Nandlall has since said the government will appeal the ruling at the level of the Guyana Court of Appeal, with the likelihood that the case will go to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Guyana’s final court of appeal.

The post Teachers’ strike continues as another Govt-GTU meeting ends in deadlock appeared first on Guyana Times.

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