…as Union steadfast on 20% interim increase demand

Chief Labour Officer Dhaneshwar Deonarine on Monday facilitated talks for the third time between officials from the Education Ministry and the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU).
Once again negotiating parties were unable to settle on a mutual agreement on the terms of resumption as the teacher’s strike continues.
According to reports, new proposals were presented by Education Ministry and GTU, as both parties signaled interest to end the ongoing strike actions.
While the details of the proposals put forward were not shared, GTU’s President Mark Lyte said “tighter” timeline for the conclusion of the proposal talks were made.

Chief Labour Officer Dhaneshwar Deonarine during Monday’s meeting

Lyte made this comment during an interview with media following the meeting, where he disclosed that a union is suggesting a 30-day period as the new timeline.
However, before a decision is taken, he said both parties have committed to discuss the terms with their principals and members.
As such, the union is awaiting feedback from the Chief Labour Officer regarding a new date for the next meeting, and until then strike action will continue.
“Both parties have given some indication that we wanted to have this matter concluded and therefore positions were shifted on both sides with regards to how we can achieve that… we are not at a stage where we are talking about the years for discussion, I think the terms of resumption is critical and we are concerned about the interim payout and how we flesh out the timeline for the discussion,” Lyte said
Further, Lyte explained that the union will continue pushing for the proposed interim 20 percent across-the-board salary payment for teachers, noting that the demand is crucial for the continuation of talks.
On this point, he reiterated that negotiations will continue when a reasonable proposal that caters for welfare of teachers is decided upon.
On the sideline of Monday’s meeting Chief Education Officer, Saddam Hussian told media operatives that he will comment on these new developments, and efforts to contact other ministry officials have proved futile.

Executive members of Education Ministry at meeting

Proposed 20 per cent for teachers
On day two of conciliation talks held in May between the Education Ministry and the GTU, a document citing a demand of 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 regrading timeframe for 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 the Labor Minister Joseph Hamilton recuse himself from the negotiations process.
Prior to 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 lock out or any other form of interference by the ministry.

Executive members of the GTU at the meeting

Very bad precedent
During a press conference on May 15, Education Minister Priya Manickchand made it clear that the Guyana Government will not sign off on the union’s request, nothing that the body is setting “very bad precedent not only for the Guyana government, but for governments across the region”.
It was also explained by the minister that after May 20, ministry will have to start distance learning which 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 had said at the time.
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 has already met with teachers across the country and outlined the government’s plan to improve their livelihoods.
On April 19, High Court judge, Justice Sandil Kissoon had 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 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 Government’s refusal to negotiate for that salary increases for the period December 2019 to 2023, but instead was ready to do so for a multi-year agreement starting 2024.

Appeal
Attorney General Anil Nandlall has filed an appeal. In the appeal filed on May 22, the Attorney General Chamber stated 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.” (G1)