Opposition Leader frowns on gov’t’s impending appeal of High Court ruling on teachers’ strike

Last Updated on Saturday, 20 April 2024, 17:52 by Writer

Opposition Leader, Aubrey Norton on Saturday disagreed with the Guyana government’s intention to appeal a High Court decision that deemed the recent 29-day strike by teachers “lawful and legitimate” because the administration had rebuffed every effort by the union to negotiate increased salaries.

“We note that the government has announced its intention to appeal the High Court’s ruling “to the CCJ, if necessary.” Teachers and workers must view this as a further demonstration of a government that is obsessed with authoritarian power,” Mr Norton said in a statement a day after Justice Sandil Kissoon handed down his decision.

The High Court also said that based on the legitimacy of the strike, teachers must be paid for the days that they were on strike — February 5, 2024 and March 4, 2024.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall said government would appeal the ruling and seek a stay of execution of the decision which also prohibits government from refusing to collect and remit membership dues to the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU). Mr Nandlall said Justice Kissoon’s decision was riddled with errors including one that opens up employers in the public and private sectors to deprivation of their constitutional right to property by going on strike and still being paid for those days. Also not finding favour with the Attorney General is the finding by the judge that to prevent the automatic check-off of union dues is to violate the constitutional right to freedom of association.

The APNU+AFC, Mr Norton said, would continue to stand on the side of the GTU and the teachers of Guyana as they continue their fight for the respect, remuneration, and other rewards they duly deserve. We are confident that justice will prevail, and the union and its capable legal team will ultimately succeed.

But the Opposition Leader hailed the High Court’s decision as a “significant reaffirmation of workers’ rights” and a “blow” against the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) government in its efforts to abuse the rights and freedoms of workers and other Guyanese and to control public institutions.

“The High Court, correctly in our view, reversed the vengeful anti-union actions of the government to deduct the salaries of teachers who participated in the month-long strike in February, and to discontinue deducting union dues from the salaries of teachers for the union. We share in the Court’s condemnation of the government’s actions as “arbitrary, unilateral, and discriminatory”,” said Mr Norton whose People’s National Congress Reform political party is the largest in the opposition coalition of the APNU+AFC (A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change).

The Opposition Leader said the Judge found it necessary to expose the unprofessional and deceptive conduct of senior public servants in the ministries of education and labour, particularly the Chief Education Officer. “While we, in the Opposition, understand the political pressures under which senior public servants work, we call on them to uphold their integrity and resist becoming pawns and lackeys of the PPP government,” he added.