Education Ministry, GTU talk reach deadlock as Union presents new demands

…teachers are being misled by Union – Manickchand

Education Ministry officials and GTU representative during the discussions on Tuesday

Conciliatory talks between the Education Ministry and the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) will reconvene on Monday after both parties reached a deadlock during discussions on Tuesday.
In an interview with Guyana Times following the meeting on Tuesday, Chief Education Officer, Saddam Hussain disclosed that GTU presented new demands that were not discussed during the first engagement on Monday.
The CEO contends that the proposal put forward to the ministry does not align with the purpose of the conciliation process, which was to come to an agreement on the period for paid salary increases for teachers.
“GTU has asked for some time to go back to their membership because we objected to some of the proposals, they have put forward… Our contention was that it (document presented by GTU) may not have anything to do with the time frame but of course that is not the position held by GTU,” Hussain told this publication.
On Tuesday, Hussain told this publication that the engagement between the ministry and union was fruitful on Monday, however, he shared that the union’s new demands have changed the tone of the mediation.
“Every discussion is fruitful, it’s a ventilation of views on both sides and that happened but I can tell you that I am not as optimistic as I was yesterday (Monday)… We went to the Ministry for them to be the mediator and conciliator in determining what time frame should be the agreement so we are going to work towards getting that done,” the CEO added.
Conciliatory talks between the two parties were facilitated following the issuance of a letter from the Education Ministry to the Labour Ministry requesting that Minister Joseph Hamilton intervene in the matter with the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU).
On Monday, GTU’s President Mark Lyte told media operatives that the document outlining the union’s terms and conditions for the resumption of work aims to pave the way for further discussion.
However, efforts to contact GTU officials on Tuesday for a comment on these developments proved futile.
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.

“Let sense prevail”
Meanwhile, Education Minister Priya Manickchand has called for “sense to prevail”, noting that any disruption in schools 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…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 said at a press conference in Kingston, Georgetown on Tuesday.
The minister contends that teachers are being misled by Union and explained that government is trying to figure out the best way forward.
“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.

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 broken 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, had 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 is because the union believes there is nothing 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 has 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 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 Guyana 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.
Attorney General Anil Nandlall has since said 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. (G1)