70+day teachers’ strike ends

…as GTU agrees to same agreement put forward by Government before industrial action

Chief Labour Officer Dhaneshwar Deonarine (centre) overseeing the signing of the Agreement of Resumption by GTU President Mark Lyte and Permanent Secretary of the Education Ministry, Shannielle Hoosein-Outar

A 70-plus day strike action by teachers from across the country has finally come to an end, as the Ministry of Education and the Guyana Teachers’ Union have decided to have conciliatory talks on the parameters of a new multi-year agreement.
The Agreement of Resumption, which was shared by Education Minister Priya Manickchand on her Facebook page, was signed on Friday. Only Thursday, President Dr Irfaan Ali told reporters during a press conference that the parties were nearing an “initial agreement” to end the strike.
Among the terms of the agreement are that the strike must end and there must be full resumption of work by all teachers/educators within two working days. There will be no discrimination against, or loss of service for, or transfer of, any teacher who was on strike; and the status quo would prevail pending the outcome of legal proceedings in the courts.
The nine-point agreement also states that, upon full resumption of work by teachers, conciliation would commence forthwith to determine whether the timeframe proposed by GTU – 2019 to 2023 – or the ministry – 2024 and onwards – should form part of a new multi-year agreement.
These talks will be held in accordance with the 1990 Memorandum of Agreement, which followed a breakdown of talks between the ministry and the union and resulted in the intervention of the Labour Ministry to mediate between the two parties.
The MOE and GTU have since met numerous times under the supervision of the Labour Ministry to embark on negotiations to determine a Multi-Year Agreement which would be beneficial to all parties involved. The process adheres to the guidelines outlined in the 1990 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) titled “The Avoidance and Settlement of Disputes”, as well as the Labour Act, Chapter 98:01 of the Laws of Guyana.
The MOE and GTU will meet next Wednesday, June 26, to continue conciliation talks regarding the parameters of the Multi-Year Agreement.

Children to resume
In a statement on Friday, the Labour Ministry said this agreement not only puts an end to the strike and ensures full resumption of work, but also allows children to resume their academic endeavours.
During the signing, Chief Labour Officer Dhaneshwar Deonarine, who served as conciliator during the engagements between the two parties, voiced satisfaction that this issue of the strike has been peacefully resolved, and talks are now moving towards a solution that would be in everyone’s best interest.
“We are very happy that we were able to meet an agreement; and, of course, given where we started and how we were going, it is good to see that the words that we constantly hear — trust and good faith — eventually came true in the end. And the fact that we are about to sign this agreement is evidence of that,” Deonarine has said.
He also stated that the Chief Labour Officer (CLO), as well as the Ministry of Labour, remain committed and will continue to be available to facilitate the advancement of the process.

Govt always committed
Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary of the Education Ministry, Shannielle Hoosein-Outar, reaffirmed that Government has always been committed to ensuring what is best for the children, the teachers, and the nation.

Further, she expressed optimism that the Multi-Year Agreement with the GTU would be amicably resolved.
“The Ministry of Education, and by extension the Government, is very happy that we have come to an agreement, and that we can conclude this first step in the conciliation process… We look forward to the continued commitment of the GTU, as we are committed to bringing a conclusion to this matter, so that at the end of it, we can have a Multi-Year Agreement that benefits all parties,” she has said.
President of the GTU, Mark Lyte, echoed similar sentiments by saying, “GTU is committed to the process to ensure that we continue to negotiate in good faith, and at the end of it, we arrive at a position that would be beneficial to the children, the teachers and the nation as a whole… I hope that we can find common ground and see the bigger picture as we go forward.”
Following the engagement, the GTU President explained to reporters that the decision to end the strike was based on a consensus by teachers across the country during recent consultations.
Initially, GTU was demanding a 20 per cent across-the-board increase before resuming conciliation talks – something which the Education Ministry had rejected, saying that it would not negotiate under duress.
Lyte disclosed that the GTU membership have changed their stance on this, hence the union went ahead and agreed to resumption without pushing for this increase.
“Us coming back here to sign minus that clause [for interim payment or a cash grant] is a direct result of new consultations that took place, and the members have agreed that they are prepared to forego that to allow the conciliation process,” Lyte explained.
Moreover, he noted that many were concerned about the requirement that teachers ought to show up on the first and last day of the school term in other to avoid being struck off the payroll. He explained that while this is not a documented policy, some teachers had faced this consequence in the past if they did not report to work on the first or last day.
“This is something that a lot of teachers were concerned about, and they raised that during our consultations. So, many of them had indicated that whether the strike was called off or not, they were going to resume duty on or before the last day of school,” the GTU Head related.
Lyte went on to urge teachers to return to classrooms on Monday and Tuesday, so as to allow for the activation of the conciliation process on Wednesday. (G8)