Even as the Guyana Teachers’ Union [GTU] prepares to have its deadlock with the Ministry of Education over teachers’ salary matters thrashed out by an arbitration panel, the union is calling on its membership to resume by tomorrow.
“The union will ensure that there is full resumption of work at all schools where the strike was in effect no later than 9am September 10, 2018,” said GTU President Mark Lyte, as he addressed a press conference on Friday.
According to Lyte, based on the Terms of Resumption the union agreed to with the Ministry of Education, “there will be no victimisation on either side and there shall be no loss of pay or seniority and the status quo ante will prevail.”
Moreover, Lyte added, “We call on our members to promptly report any attempt of victimisation or pay cut to the union.”
At Friday’s press conference, too, he revealed that the Terms of Resumption also stipulates that “within 24 hours after there is full resumption, the parties will meet to determine the Terms of Reference [TOR] for the arbitration panel as guided by the Memorandum of Agreement between the union and the Ministry of Education dated April 10, 1990.”
During the press conference, the GTU President also expressed gratitude to the nation’s public school teachers who supported in earnest a nine-day strike action. The strike action, which followed on the heels of an impasse between the union and the Ministry of Education, saw thousands of teachers from across the country staying away from and engaging in protest action school to retaliate against an unacceptable offer from government.
“The Guyana Teachers’ Union wishes to express a hearty thank you to all our members and non-members who stuck it out over the past nine days during the period of strike. Your sacrifice was not in vain; we shall overcome…we have learnt many lessons through this period, which has made us stronger, more united, determined and focused,” Lyte underscored.
Even as he vocalised his words of gratitude, the GTU President reiterated the union’s position that “we do not trust the Labour Department within the Ministry of Social Protection to conciliate with strict impartiality.”
As he alluded to the union’s attendance of a meeting last Thursday at the Georgetown Labour Department in Brickdam, Lyte said, “Our presence…was to discuss the current impasse with a view to returning to normalcy at the workplace. We wanted at the conclusion of the strike, the substantive issues must be referred to an arbitration panel.”
Lyte shared too that while it was revealed in some sections of the media that that meeting should have seen the Ministry of Education proposing a revised offer to the union, this was not the case.
“Our insistence in going to arbitration because of a lack of confidence in the Department of Labour conciliating in an impartial, fair and just manner is justified,” said Lyte, as he noted that initially the union was informed that the Department – including Chief Labour Officer, Mr. Charles Ogle; Minister within the Social Protection Ministry, Mr. Keith Scott, and the Senior Minister, Ms. Amna Ally, as well as Labour Adviser, Mr. Francis Carryl – was involved as a member of the employer’s team advocating on the employer’s behalf.
The inability of the Department of Labour to be impartial was further reinforced, Lyte said, by Minister Scott’s recent public derogatory remarks about teachers. The Minister was quoted in the media saying that teachers are “uncaring” and “selfish” for engaging in strike action.
The GTU President noted that while the Minister did apologise subsequently, “it should be stated that the deprecating remarks about workers and the trade unions have occurred more than once and apologies offer only after public condemnation.”
Moreover, Lyte said, “In extreme caution and to avoid the potential of such repetition during negotiations which could derail the process, arbitration remains the next best recourse.”
The union, according to Lyte, remains committed to a stable industrial relations climate and is therefore only eager to see the return of normalcy.
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