A meeting between the Guyana Teachers’ Union [GTU] and the Ministry of Education to chart the way forward to arbitration for a salary increase package for public school teachers yesterday ended with the union opting to seek legal advice.
The decision to seek legal advice, according to GTU President, Mr. Mark Lyte, was linked to the fact that the two sides were not able to agree on a few of the items detailed in the Terms of Reference [TOR] presented by the Education Ministry.
The meeting held at the Ministry of Social Protection’s Labour Department was intended to have the two sides decide on a final TOR to govern the process of arbitration to determine the salary increase for the teachers.
Although both sides presented their respective TORs, Lyte disclosed that, “We agreed generally on most of the points…while in some instances they matched. There were two we didn’t agree on.”
“We wanted some specifics on them in terms of not just highlighting the points that it is mentioned but the Ministry was a little bit hesitant so we indicated that we would need to get some legal advice on those two,” Lyte informed.
According to the GTU President, too, the need for legal advice is necessary to determine whether items of concern within the TOR presented by the Education Ministry “would actually capture what we want them to reflect in their current form.”
Moreover, the meeting has been adjourned to Friday at which time the two sides are expected to come to an agreeable TOR for the arbitration process which will be signed by both sides. “If we had agreed on the two areas we would have signed it off today but that will hopefully happen on Friday,” Lyte shared.
On Friday, too, it is expected that the two sides will be submitting the names of their nominees for the membership and chairperson for the arbitration panel.
The decision to head to arbitration became a reality after the Ministry of Education, before Chief Labour Officer, Mr. Charles Ogle, agreed to the union’s demand for arbitration. This move brought to an end, nine days of strike action by public school teachers, which essentially resulted in a shutdown of public schools across the country.
The end of the strike action saw both the union and the Education Ministry agreeing to a Terms of Resumption, which ensured that there was no victimisation, including full pay, for teachers.
“There will be no loss of pay, no victimisation, no loss of seniority,” said Lyte who went on to note that while teachers were expected to resume work Friday, the parties, by signing the agreement, agreed to full resumption on Monday. This decision came after a near four-hour long meeting Thursday at the Labour Department. Arbitration became inevitable after multiple attempts at conciliation failed.
Signing the agreement to head to arbitration on the Education Ministry’s side was Chief Education Officer, Mr. Marcel Hutson, and Permanent Secretary, Ms. Adele Clarke, while GTU President, Mark Lyte and General Secretary, Ms. Coretta McDonald signed for the union.
After the signing of the agreement, Lyte, accompanied by his First Vice President, Ms. Lesmeine Collins; General Secretary McDonald, and other members of the union’s executive walked out of the Social Protection Ministry where a number of teachers were eagerly waiting to hear the verdict.
As the union executives strutted out of the Ministry’s compound, with heads held high, the gathering of waiting teachers burst into singing of their solidarity song already confident that they had endured the struggle and emerged the victors.
Shortly before addressing his membership, a smiling Lyte, speaking to media operatives, said, “Today is a good day for the union…from day one, we insisted that this matter should go to arbitration and we have achieved that today much to the pleasure of our members because we did not feel that this process would have served us well.”
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