Minister of Education, Nicolette Henry, recently made a declaration that she was not going to address the sweeper/cleaners in the presence of any third party, be it the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) or media.
At a recent press conference held by the Union, great displeasure was demonstrated as the Ministry would have once again failed to meet the expectation of its people.
The Union explained that a series of meetings have been going on over a period of time, commencing after the workers took to the streets for a protest.
After the protest action, the Ministry and the GPSU prepared a proposal for the “fair treatment” of the workers and was submitted to the Minister of Education, Nicolette Henry, for approval and ratification by Cabinet.
The proposal sought to address the working hours, rate of pay, annual leave and NIS deductions among other related issues that affect sweeper/cleaners.
GPSU in a statement said subsequent to the meeting, the Union wrote to the Minister requesting a meeting for an update on the situation. The Secretary to the Minister, via telephone, told officials at the GPSU that the meeting was scheduled for September 26, last.
However, to their dismay another telephone call was received, informing the union that the Minister would not attend the meeting with GPSU since the matter had been discussed with the Minister of Social Protection, Amna Ally.
Representatives of the union said they were overjoyed when a local newspaper highlighted that Minister Ally made a recommendation for the regularization of the employment of sweepers/cleaners in the public sector and particularly the school system. That proposal was approved by Cabinet.
Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, told reporters that Cabinet agreed to a proposal made by the Minister of Education to the Ministry of Finance to be placed in the 2018 budget presentation. He added, “We trust that these interventions will bring to an end this situation.”
Following this statement, a group of frustrated sweeper/cleaners were summoned to a meeting at GPSU by Minister Henry who advised, that she is not prepared to meet with a third party.
The Minister therefore condemned the presence of the media as well as the GPSU representative for the sweeper/cleaners.
The Union sought to highlight this issue and termed the behaviour ‘disturbing’ and ‘disrespectful’. Additionally, the union said, “The GPSU entered negotiations on behalf of the Sweepers/Cleaners with the Ministry of Education through the Permanent Secretary. Any communication to the Sweepers/Cleaners should be through the GPSU and to say that she will not meet with a third party flies in the face of, and is a blatant disregard of, the Agreement for the Avoidance and settlement of Disputes between the Government of Guyana and the Guyana Public Service Union”.
The GPSU is unaware of the conditions to which Cabinet has agreed. The feedback that the GPSU got from some of those who attended the meeting, seems to vary from what was discussed and agreed to, according to the union.
Despite the many talks that GPSU and the Ministry of Education has been engaging in, no decision has been made surrounding the plights of sweeper/cleaners.
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