Despite the absence of the Guyana Teachers’ Union [GTU], the Labour Department of the Ministry of Social Protection yesterday briefly engaged officials of the Ministry of Education in what is being described as the first conciliation meeting.
The meeting materialised because of a request of the Education Ministry, which in a letter to Social Protection Ministry, asked that it exercise its conciliation power in a situation that could have “highly negative and far reaching implications” and be “gravely injurious to the national interest…”
The Ministry was at the time making reference to the planned strike action by the union which is expected to see teachers staying away from pre-term activities from next week Monday [August 27, 2018] and continuing into the following week [the first week of the new school year].
The plan for the strike action comes on the heels of failed talks between the union and the Education Ministry regarding a multi-year salary package for public school teachers.
While both the Education and Social Protection Ministries yesterday issued statements which amplified the fact that the union had absented itself from yesterday’s meeting, GTU President, Mr. Mark Lyte said that the union could not have attended when it was not invited.
In fact, Lyte, who has been travelling throughout the country since Monday to mobilise teachers for strike action, said that he learnt that the invitation in question was received by staffers at the union headquarters at around 09:20 hours yesterday.
“This was when we were officially informed, and so we could not have attended a meeting at such short notice,” said Lyte, who advised that he was yesterday continuing mobilising meetings with teachers in Berbice.
The day before Lyte had spearheaded two meetings with teachers on the Essequibo Coast.
Chief Labour Officer, Mr. Charles Ogle, insisted that an invitation was sent to the union Thursday afternoon.
Ogle, however, told media operatives, after meeting with officials of the Education Ministry, including Chief Education Officer, Mr. Marcel Hutson, that since the union was not present at the meeting, another date was set to meet.
“We knew up front they [the union] weren’t coming, so there was no meeting per se…We would have just told them we’ve planned a next date, next week Tuesday,” Ogle said.
However, a statement issued later by the Social Protection Ministry said that while “the Education Ministry was present, ready and prepared to participate and did participate in the process…due to the absence of the union the meeting was adjourned to 2pm August 28, 2018.”
The statement said too that a letter to this effect has been issued to the GTU President.
The Education Ministry also issued a statement yesterday on the meeting which highlighted also that while senior officials of the ministry were present, the union was unrepresented.
But based on the disclosure of some individuals within the union, the union may not be supportive of the conciliation approach. In fact, a union representative told this publication, “We cannot have conciliation now since at… meetings [with the Education Ministry] Labour was present.”
The representative further explained that “the negotiation in the first place should have been between the union and the [Education] Ministry and when that failed, then Labour should have been called in.”
The union representative underscored, “we have passed conciliation stage, because when Labour is invited that is when conciliation should take place…they were already involved in those meetings, so we can’t go back to conciliation at this point; we simply cannot go back to conciliation now.”
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