GTU must call off strike to re-engage Gov’t – Minister Hamilton

– says analysis reveals only 70% of teachers were in classrooms before strike action

In order to re-engage the Government in talks to address the needs of teachers, the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) must call off its illegal strike.
This was made clear by Labour Minister Joseph Hamilton during a recent televised programme.
At the High Court on Friday, Attorneys Edward Luckhoo and Robin Stoby, Senior Counsel appointed by Justice Sandil Kissoon, mediated six-hour-long talks between the GTU and the Government; but, in the end, the stalemate remains, and as such, the process will continue on Monday with the hope of bringing a resolution to the five-week-long industrial action taken by teachers.

Labour Minister Joseph Hamilton

According to Minister Hamilton, fundamentally, negotiations cannot continue once the Education Ministry is under duress. He explained that the GTU must call off the strike and let teachers return to the classrooms before the union can make the necessary arrangements to resolve the issue amicably. In this regard, he added that roundtable discussions are the only method that can be employed to “iron out the outstanding issues”.
“It doesn’t matter what the GTU do or don’t do, at the end of the day, to re-engage, they have to call the strike off; they have to create the necessary conditions for re-engagement…They can’t ask the Ministry of Education to let us go back to the table when they still have a strike on the road; teachers are still out of their classrooms,” Minister Hamilton explained.

During the programme, the Labour Minister disclosed that the strike action has prompted the Ministry of Education to conduct a teachers’ productivity analysis to determine the daily workload of teachers.
According to Hamilton, the investigation revealed that, on any given day before the strike, only 70 per cent of teachers would turn up for work; and this, he noted, is detrimental to education delivery in Guyana.

GTU President Mark Lyte

“There is not ever 100 per cent, 90 per cent, or 80 per cent (attendance of teachers). That was a shock and an alarm that the assessment brings attention to the matter of productivity…If you extend it further, you can now understand perhaps why we have so many weaknesses in some areas of education delivery and pass rates… because we never had in the schools maximum teachers turning out to work to do their jobs,” Hamilton stated.

Wave of measures
A statement from the Government on Thursday indicated that the Education Ministry has implemented another wave of measures and decisions to benefit teachers. These measures were unsolicited by the Union, but have been implemented by the Government’s initiative over the past four years.
The last of the engagements between the Education Ministry and the GTU reportedly took place on January 31, 2024, when at least five salary-related issues on the agenda were addressed.
“At the end of the meeting, there was no evidence whatsoever of any rancour, discord, or disagreement between the parties. As a result, the Government was understandably shocked when the Union, a few days after, announced its intention to resort to strike action. The Government wishes to emphasise that at all times, it was (ready), and remains ready and prepared to, resume those engagements,” the statement added.
The GTU had made 41 demands in a multi-year agreement it proposed to the Education Ministry. The Ministry has since fulfilled 25 of those requests. Of the 16 remaining proposals, two are specifically for the benefit of only GTU and its Executive Members, while two others are contrary to the laws of Guyana, and the other 12 are currently under consideration.
While the Government did not think that judicial intervention was necessary, having regard to the established industrial practices, it said there would be participation in the process with the firm expectation that it would put teachers back into the classrooms.
Meanwhile, Chief Education Officer (CEO) Sadam Hussain has also told all teachers and headteachers that the decision to strike was illegal, and is contrary to the agreements signed by the Education Ministry and the GTU.
“To be clear, the MoE has received advice from the Ministry of Labour, the experts on the issue, that conditions for strike action have not been met; as a result of which any such strike would be wholly illegal and unlawful. I believe that the GTU has been unduly influenced by its General Secretary, who serves as Member of Parliament for the main Opposition. This threat of industrial action sets a bad precedent since this is the final term before the NGSA (National Grade Six Assessment) and CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate) exams. Any disruption to the teaching-learning process could affect individual children and their entire future,” he penned.