Education Minister refutes claims of teachers, Union being treated unfairly
– as GTU threatens strike action if concerns not addressed
Just hours after the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) protested the Education Ministry demanding that Minister Priya Manickchand address several issues of concerns, the Minister rubbished claims made by the Union, deeming it as uncalled for.
The GTU claimed that they are being treated unfairly and has threatened to strike if the Minister continues not to consult with them on various issues such as the operations of schools in the pandemic, salary increases, debunching, the reshuffling of Head Teachers, grants, school records, among other things.
Speaking on the Union’s behalf, its President Mark Lyte said that the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) has had enough of the Education Ministry’s mistreatment during the pandemic and is calling for inclusivity.
“This is just the beginning of a process, and as you know they are several things that a Union could do to get the attention of the employer, strike is never ruled out, but this is just one of the actions that we have initiated to kick start the process with a view that we will not have to end up in a strike situation.”
“The necessary intervention can be taken swiftly so that the Union would not resort to a strike like we did in 2018, and you saw how crippling that was to the system. We would not want to go down but if we have to, we will,” Lyte stated.
Lyte told reporters that the Union has learnt about various matters related to teachers and the education system through the media – a practice that has to come to an end.
“We are reading a lot of things from online via social media. This is the teachers’ representative body. No consultation as to the proposed reopening of school dates, as well as what protocols will be put in place to ensure that our teachers are safe.”
“We also recognised that Head Teachers are being moved to selective senior secondary schools in Georgetown, with no consultation. We are not invited to meetings any longer to engage the Ministry,” Lyte expressed.
The GTU also alleged that the Ministry of Education has been reaching out to teachers directly to discuss various issues related to the education system, and this should not be the case.
However, Minister Manickchand soon after the protest stated that some of the statements made by the Union are untrue and indicated that since she took office in August 2020, she has met with the GTU six times and based on reports from all of Guyana’s administration regions, their representatives have been attending regional meetings.
“We decided at my invitation that we were going to meet statutorily every month as parties [of] the Ministry of Education and all its professional officers as well as the Union and as many people as they would like to invite and that has happened. In fact, we have met over the course of the last 9 months or 11 months 6 or 7 times we have the dates. The last few times we have invited the Unions to meetings on our statutory date the Union has been putting the meetings off, I thought at the time and I still hope that those were genuine postponements and issue wasn’t being created so that we could end up in this problem now,” the Minister explained.
Minister Manickchand also stated that there are records of all of the meetings, while mentioning that it was made clear that if the Union has any problem, they should consult with her, but this is not the case in this instance.
The Minister added that she has not met with the Union in the last two months because both she and the Union’s representatives were busy.
According to the Minister, her Ministry has been doing its part, and it seems as though the Union only wants the Ministry to consult with them. She said even though the Union is an important stakeholder, “they are not, and will not be the only stakeholders that the Ministry speaks to or consult with”.
In saying all of this, the Minister said the Ministry will maintain a professional relationship with the Union, since it is a representation of the country’s teachers. On the other hand, she said if the Union is going to become a political organisation, it will have to decide if it wants to separate itself from politics and remain a professional body.
In terms of the other concerns raised by the Union, the Minister claimed that they are uncalled for, since the Government has been working assiduously to ensure that all teachers are being treated fairly.