“No work, no pay” – teachers must demand promised strike relief from GTU now

The GTU has filed court papers to force the Government to not deduct striking teachers’ pay and to force Government to act as the union’s agent by deducting union dues from teachers. Both in Guyana and around the world, judicial precedents have established the principle of “No work, No pay”.
Before the court filing, the union insisted that it was not worried the Government will no longer act as the union’s agent to deduct union dues, because it will collect them via MMG. It did not tell the teachers that in Guyana the matter of Government acting as the union’s agents has been previously determined by both the High Court and the Court of Appeal which both ruled that the Government is only a voluntary agent and can legally refuse to do so. It did not tell the teachers that the decision by courts in Guyana are consistent with the rulings in other parts of the world.
This same union told teachers when it called them out that they will be paid because the union has “corporate” sponsors. It did not tell the teachers, nor has it told the nation, who these sponsors are. The law stipulates that a strike relief account must be established through which strike relief is provided. The GTU has not done so. Into the third week of the strike, teachers are not aware of any relief to be provided by the union. Instead, teachers are being told now that the court will order Government to pay them.
There is a credibility issue with GTU. It has blatantly lied to the teachers. Unless it comes forward with evidence of the corporate sponsors, then it was always a lie. Three weeks into the strike, there is no evidence that any such corporate sponsors exist. It told the teachers that the union dues are not an issue because the teachers will pay up their fees directly to the union, why then ask the court to overturn decisions it has made in the past?
The GTU did not tell teachers that it was meeting with the Ministry of Education, most recently on January 31, and that it presented over 40 issues to be included on the agenda for discussions and that 27 of those issues were either resolved or largely resolved. It did not tell the teachers or the nation that it agreed to meet every third Wednesday of the month to continue discussions with the Ministry of Education and that the next meeting was scheduled for February 21. Instead, it called out teachers on strike two weeks prior to the meeting.
It is a credibility issue. The credibility issue is heightened by revelations of misconduct and malfeasance involved in the utilisation of union dues. The GTU, which has collected more than $2 billion since 1989 when they last submitted accounts for audit by the Auditor General, is asking teachers to make sacrifices for the union, even if it means not being able to pay their mortgages and car loans and risk losing their homes and cars. For a union which cannot account to its members how it has spent more than $2 billion, it is remarkable that it can so brazenly ask its members to risk losing homes, cars and other properties.
Teachers have a right to strike. All workers in Guyana has that right. Whether we all agree that this was a good time for teachers to strike or not is a question open to debate. There will be significant numbers of persons on both sides of the debate. But for those who defend the unaccountability of the union, we must be consistent. It is a fact that the GTU has not submitted accounts for audit since 1989. The AG is the only authorised auditor for those accounts. The GTU now has an opportunity since it insists it had accounts audited annually by private persons to submit those audited accounts to the AG.
The GTU has also failed to submit to the Registrar of Trade Unions financial accounts since 2005. If accounts have been audited and if accounts have been presented at the Annual General Meeting of the union, then the GTU has an obligation to submit those immediately to the Registrar of Trade Unions and to the Auditor General. The union must not think it can just make a blanket statement and people must believe them. It has no credibility even among its members.
The union has flouted its own rules in myriads of ways. In the case of MP Coretta McDonald, who qualifies only as an associate member, given she is both a teacher and an MP, she is not eligible for a position on the executive of the GTU. Because I am a dual citizen, I could not serve as a Minister, even if the President wanted to appoint me. In accordance with the ruling of the courts after the No-Confidence Motion of December 21, 2018, political parties had to be compliant with the Constitution that prohibits dual citizens from sitting in Parliament and, therefore, serving as Minister. No matter what other qualifications I might have had, I could not be considered for a ministerial appointment. Rules are rules and we must follow them. Rules can be changed, but until they are changed legally, we must adhere to those rules.
Teachers must take a step back and ask themselves why the GTU has not been upfront with them. Is the union driven by the interests of the teachers or is the union more interested in its political agenda? The fact is that the union is only interested in satisfying its political master. The teachers and the children are merely pawns in its machinations to earn credit with its political masters. Teachers must demand now evidence that meaningful strike relief is available for them.