Planned GTU strike: Put reason over emotions – CEO to teachers

…says systems are in place to combat learning loss

The Education Ministry is urging teachers countrywide to remain in classrooms and not participate in the planned Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) strike slated to commence today.
Teachers had only returned to the classrooms on March 6, after striking for some four weeks, and the Chief Education Officer (CEO) Saddam Hussain has disclosed that the ministry is working to ensure educators are not absent from schools due to “GTU’s unreasonable request”.
During an interview with this publication, the Chief Education Officer expressed his disappointment with the union, and reaffirmed the Government of Guyana’s commitment to fostering open communication and collaboration with the GTU to address pertinent matters concerning the nation’s teachers.
He also maintained that the Government, through the Education Ministry is prepared to negotiate a multi-year agreement starting 2024 and beyond, while work continues at the policy level to improve the livelihood of educators.
According to Hussain, GTU’s reasons for striking are not stable and the affairs of teachers should be dealt with delicately.
“At the beginning of the last strike it was, that there was no collective bargaining and we debunked that. Then there was no meeting and we showed our record that there were meetings. Now it’s a time frame, so the goal post, the reason for the strike keeps changing,” Hussain said.
“But we believe our teachers are level headed, they understand that the Government of Guyana has made significant steps in improving working conditions and so they will not accede to GTU’s unreasonable request for strike action,” the Chief Education Officer added.
According to Hussain, the Government has always underscored the invaluable contributions of teachers and their contributions to the development of the country.

Systems in place
However, he explained that the school term is coming to an end and while the ministry is surprised by the call for strike action, measures are in place to cover the absence of teachers in schools.
“The ministry has some systems in place which will attempt to cover for teachers’ absence. So, we will have to wait and see what is the extent of the strike, however, I am very optimistic on the teachers of this country and I certainly believe these are the best professionals we have and so I expect that reason will prevail over emotions,” Hussain explained.
Teachers had only on March 6 returned to the classroom, after striking for some four weeks.
The teachers, through their union, had ended the strike and agreed to return to discussions with the government regarding salary increases.
The government, through the Education Ministry, has made it clear that it stands ready to engage the Union on the Multi-Year Agreement from 2024 onwards.
However, the GTU wants the talks to be centered from 2019 to 2024.
When the strike had ended, the Union and the government were engaged in discussions on issues affecting teachers.
Those talks have reportedly since broken down, according to the Union’s General Secretary Coretta McDonald.
In a telephone interview with this publication on Tuesday, McDonald disclosed 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.
This time around, McDonald says the teachers are prepared to strike for as long as it takes for their demands to be met.
Some issues addressed
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.
Meanwhile, as teachers prepare to strike again, there is a legal matter still to be resolved.
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 on the salary increases for the period of December 2021 to 2023, but instead was ready to do so for a multi-year agreement starting 2024.
Attorney General Anil Nandlall has since said that, the 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)