Teachers’ Union decides to resume strike but no date fixed

Last Updated on Saturday, 4 May 2024, 10:36 by Writer

President of the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU), Dr Mark Lyte on Wednesday—Labour Day—said the union had decided to resume a strike to press for collective bargaining on a proposal for 2019-2023 but no date has been set.

“What we are contemplating right now is about announcing a date f0r resumption of the strike action…We are not only contemplating it; a decision has already been made. It’s just about when we will strike,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

He said that since the High Court’s March 19, 2024 decision that the 29-day strike earlier this year was “lawful and legitimate” and that striking teachers must be paid their full salaries, government has not contacted the GTU. Asked whether the union had reached out to the government for talks, the GTU President said initially that was the plan but later the union took the position that the burden was on government to call in the union. “We haven’t done that. We had thought about it but given the situation, we believe that the onus is on the government side to engage because, in the first place, we were ready to do our discussion,” he said.

Dr Lyte said it was the government that shot down the GTU’s 2019-2023 proposal and instead said it was only interested in negotiating a multi-year agreement from 2024. “Now that the ruling is out, we believe that they now have to come with a compromise position so that is why we have not reached out to them,” the trade union leader said.

Asked to respond to the view in some quarters that the GTU should have given into government’s request to submit a multi-year proposal from 2024 and add on the demands for the previous years, the GTU President said the collective bargaining agreements with unions must be respected by government. “They can come with a ball-park figure or something like that; let’s work around it for that period but to say that you are absolutely not dealing with those years can’t be accepted. I think it will set a bad precedent for trade unions,” he said.

Government had said it would appeal the Guyana High Court decision on the grounds that a right to strike could not be equated with the constitutionally enshrined freedom to strike. Also up for appeal is the decision that teachers, who were on strike earlier this year, must not lose pay for the days they were not at work. Attorney General Anil Nandlall said that aspect of Justice Sandil Kissoon’s decision constitutes a violation of the constitutional right to property.