Sep 21, 2018 News
“We are of the firm view that Government is unwilling to address the concerns of teachers as these relate to salary and other financial benefits for teachers.”
These were the words of President of the Guyana Teachers Union [GTU], Mr. Mark Lyte, as he shared his belief that government has been deliberately seeking to undermine the process to set up an arbitration panel to negotiate a multi-year salary package for public school teachers.
This approach to the process could very well see the union opting to mobilize its membership to resume industrial action.
Even as he sought to qualify the undermining suspicion, Lyte said, yesterday, that the union has evidence to support the conclusion that the Education team it met with last week Friday did not come prepared to meet in good faith.
At the meeting, which was intended to name the members of the arbitration panel, the Education Ministry’s team including Chief Education Officer, Marcel Hutson, and Permanent Secretary [ag], Ms Adele Clarke, rejected all three of the nominees submitted by the union.
But Lyte is convinced that anyone of its nominees could have easily qualified for the chairmanship of the arbitration panel.
The names submitted by the union were Rashleigh Jackson, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs; Mr. Jeffrey Thomas, a former Minister of Education, Labour and Regional Development; and Dr. Aubrey Armstrong who in 1999 chaired the Arbitration Tribunal between the Guyana Public Service Union and the Government of Guyana.
The meeting should have seen the two sides agreeing on the chairperson and either side submitting the name of one member each to make up the three-member arbitration panel.
But the Ministry did not only reject the union’s nominees but went on to submit two names of officials who are currently employed by the State as suitable candidates for the chairmanship. The names submitted by the education team were Mr. Derrick Cummings, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Telecommunications; and Mr. Glendon Harris, the Human Resource Manager of the Guyana Revenue Authority. The union rejected both nominees.
Lyte, however, told this publication yesterday that while it had appeared that the Education Ministry’s move to seek the intervention of the Social Protection Ministry to nominate the chairperson was a logical next step, from all indication the whole process was orchestrated.
The union was able to decipher this development after it received two letters – one from the Social Protection Ministry indicating its intent to intervene and another in which the Education Ministry made the request for the intervention.
It was the latter correspondent that Lyte said revealed a rather conniving move. According to Lyte, the date of the Education Ministry’s correspondence, July 14, 2018, to the Social Protection Ministry is a clear indication that the rejection tactic was premeditated. This is in light of the fact that the date of the correspondence was the same date the two sides met with the intent of setting up of the arbitration panel.
“How is it they could have made that request to the Social Protection Ministry on that day and that meeting ended after working hours? Added to that the meeting ended with us deciding to meet on another date to continue our discussion,” said Lyte.
He is, moreover, convinced that “this is a clear indication that [the education team] came with the intent to reject all of the names, regardless of who we brought to the table, and that is a matter of concern for us.”
According to Lyte, this development has confirmed the union’s suspicion that the education team was merely acting on instructions from “higher up” and not in the best interest of teachers.
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