Feb 23, 2016 News
Protest action by the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU), which has been ongoing for the past four weeks outside of the Brickdam, Georgetown office of the Teaching Service Commission (TSC), has been called off, at least temporarily.
This is according to GTU President, Mark Lyte, who disclosed that following protest action last week the Union was invited to a meeting with Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, at the Ministry of the Presidency.
“He invited us to a meeting last week Thursday in relation to what he saw. The fact is that we believed that no one in Government has been paying attention to our concerns,” said Lyte.
During protest action last week, the Union had threatened a nationwide strike. But the nationwide strike, according to Lyte, would have been a last resort tactic.
He insisted, “We should have got a response already but we have not, so we are thinking seriously about calling a strike that would put some more urgency to let them (Government) know that our issue is urgent.”
In fact he’d intimated, “I believe that Government is acting too slow…if you have the nation’s teachers at heart, if you have the children at heart, if our teachers are not happy in the classroom then they can’t deliver in the classroom and this is having a rippling effect…teachers are affected, children are affected, parents are affected and the whole community is affected. This is a matter of urgency; I believe they should suspend debates in Parliament to treat with this matter because of how urgent it is.”
And Lyte said that strike action, whereby teachers will stay away from school, could have started this week if there was no favourable response.
But Lyte said of the meeting with Minister Harmon, “It was very fruitful.” He noted that the Union is willing to call off protest action and possible strike action to give the Minister a chance to intervene.
“We are looking to see what happens…Calling off our action could be temporary or not but we are waiting to see what happens.”
The Union has been protesting against the Leila Ramson-led TSC after it discovered that the TSC had acted in contravention of a court ruling. The Union had last year secured an injunction to prevent the TSC from going ahead with its 2015 teachers’ promotion until a review of the process was done.
The injunction also prevented the promotions by the Schools Board Secretariat. While the Schools Board Secretariat conceded to the review, the TSC didn’t. As such the matter has to be resolved in the high court. It is likely that a ruling on the matter could be handed down when the matter is heard later this month.
Despite the injunction the TSC had gone ahead and promoted a teacher which enraged the GTU and prompted the protest action which has seen GTU members calling for the replacement of the Commission members.
Ms. Ramson had however noted that the promotion that bothered the Union was in fact an error which was eventually corrected and an apology was issued to the Union.
Lyte shared his conviction during the recent strike action, “There is a deliberate effort to frustrate our teachers who are due their promotions. Had this matter been treated with since last year it would have been resolved by December (2015)…the Commission continues to drag its feet stating that it is unable to treat with the concerns of the Guyana Teachers Union.”
According to Lyte, for the past 20 years some teachers have been frustrated since they are convinced that promotions are not based on their eligibility and the criteria that should be used.
But during the recent meeting Minister Harmon made a commitment to the GTU to look into their concerns relating to the TSC. “The Minister said that he will have a closer look at the standoff between the Union and the Teaching Service Commission to see how he can help to address it,” said Lyte in an invited comment yesterday.
At the meeting, Minister Harmon also signed off on duty free concessions owed to eligible teachers, according to Lyte.
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