The Guyana Teachers Union [GTU] is prepared to mobilize its membership to resume strike action if the Ministry of Social Protection moves forward with its decision to impose its appointee to chair the arbitration panel to negotiate a salary increase for public school teachers.
The resumed strike action could commence within seven days.
This development comes on the heels of a meeting between the GTU and the Ministry of Education which was hosted by the Labour Department of the Ministry of Social Protection.
The meeting was however intended to serve as a means to amicably and swiftly resolve the difficulties faced by the concerned parties to set up the arbitration panel.
Both the Education Ministry and the GTU had failed to agree on a chairperson to head the panel and were yet to name one nominee each. Moreover, the Education Ministry had written to the Social Protection Ministry to intervene to resolve the dilemma.
Following meeting yesterday at the Brickdam, Georgetown Labour Department , Lyte made it clear that “the GTU attended the meeting…for the sole purpose of naming our nominee for the Arbitration Tribunal.”
“In the middle of clarifying some other issues, the meeting was interrupted by the Minister with responsibility for Labour, Honourable Keith Scott, who had in his company a very well dressed young man, who was introduced to the meeting as Minister’s appointee to chair the Arbitration Tribunal – a Professor Leyland Lucas.”
Professor Lucas, Lyte revealed, is said to be a remigrant who holds a senior position at the University of Guyana.
But according to Lyte, the union did not approve of this move by the Minister and therefore objected. “It was premature to be doing that at this point in time. As a matter of fact, the union highlighted that if this same Minister was proactive a year and a half ago, we would not have been in the position that we are at now.”
“We registered our concern that according to our document – the Memorandum of Agreement – that exists between the Union and the Ministry of Education, the process is further compromised and more so by the Minister’s attempt to bully the GTU into accepting what is by no means a process that will be fair and transparent and one that will see our members receiving an award that is so due.”
But the Ministry of Education in a statement had a complete different interpretation of the intent of yesterday’s meeting. It was pointed out in the Ministry’s statement that the two sides met with the Chief Labour Officer for each party to nominate one member and for the Ministry of Labour to nominate the Chairman to sit on the arbitration panel.
It was pointed out, too, that while the Ministry of Education submitted its nominee, the union was not willing to do the same even as Lucas was introduced by the Ministry of Labour as the Chairman of the arbitration panel.
According to the Education Ministry’ statement, “the Union requested time to consider the nomination of the chairmanship. At the request of the Union, the meeting was adjourned to [today] at 13:00hrs for both parties to finalize and sign the Terms of Reference for arbitration.”
But Lyte insisted yesterday that “we are not going back to no meeting unless we mutually agree on the chair.”
Supporting Lyte’s disclosure yesterday was the union’s General Secretary, Ms. Coretta McDonald. McDonald in a letter to the Chief Labour Officer which was carbon copied to the Education Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Ms. Adele Clarke, highlighted that “the GTU continues to advocate that the Labour Department within the Ministry of Social Protection headed by Minister Keith Scott cannot be trusted to arbitrarily nominate a chairman for the Arbitration Tribunal.”
“The Union’s position was made clear from the first day of conciliatory talks between the two parties. The Chief Labour Officer was informed that the Union’s presence was out of courtesy since we had lost all confidence in the Department of Labour headed by Minister Keith Scott,” McDonald added.
According to the General Secretary, the Union had long confirmed that the Department of Labour was not an unbiased party to the negotiations due to the utterances of both Social Protection Ministers – Amna Ally and Keith Scott.
Further, she noted, the utterances of Minister Scott to the media that “teachers are selfish and uncaring” cannot make him an unbiased Minister given his earlier involvement and subsequent media outburst.
“The Minister’s decision to appoint and attempt to introduce a chairman to GTU at the meeting of September 25, 2018 will go down as another endeavour to bully the Union into accepting someone whose political and employment agenda cannot be ascertain,” said McDonald.
McDonald added, “The Union therefore demands that the two parties mutually agree on the chairmanship as given in the Memorandum of Agreement between GTU and MOE of April 10, 1990.” At this juncture, she reiterated the union stance that it will resume strike action within seven days if the two concerned parties fail to mutually agree on the chairman of the arbitration panel.
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