Education ministry asks labour ministry to mediate in teachers’ strike

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 May 2024, 19:50 by Writer

The Ministry of Education on Sunday declared a deadlock in salary talks with the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) and officially asked the Ministry of Labour to mediate between the two sides, one day before striking teachers were expected to take to the streets.

“Pursuant to the provisions of the 1990 Memorandum of Agreement “the avoidance and settlement of disputes” between the Government of Guyana and the Guyana Teachers’ Union and the Labour Act, Cap. 98:01, the impasse in respect of the timeframe is referred to you for Conciliation,” Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Shannielle Hoosein-Outar said in a letter to labour minister, Joseph Hamilton.

Previous efforts by the GTU to invoke conciliation had been rejected by the Chief Labour Officer, Dhaneshwar Deonarine.

With teachers having already resumed strike action last Thursday and were set engage in street protests from Monday, according to GTU President Dr Mark Lyte. Ms Hoosein-Outar said two letters between herself and the union’s President on May 8 and 9, 2024 “establish the nature and purport of the deadlock.” The Permanent Secretary told the labour minister that government is ready and willing to engage the GTU on a multi-year agreement from 2024 onwards for salaries and other benefits; but the Union counters that they are only prepared to resume engagements for a multi-year proposal for the years 2019 to 2023, a copy of which it has submitted to the Ministry of Education.

The GTU wants a 25 percent salary increase for 2019 and 20 percent for each year from 2020 to 2023.

In her letter to Mr Hamilton, the Permanent Secretary of the education ministry admitted that there has been a “breakdown in negotiations” over the period for the new multi-year agreement and that the strike action was “ongoing.”

Dr Lyte last weekend told a news conference that the GTU resumed the strike to pressure the government into arbitration.

Pending an appeal and request for a stay by the State, the High Court’s decision that the 29-day teachers’ strike earlier this year was “lawful and legitimate” still stands. Justice Sandil Kissoon also prohibited the deduction of monies from salaries for days off the job.

The government had said it intended to appeal the decisions on the grounds that there is a freedom to strike rather than a right to strike, and the constitutional right to property – in this case an employer’s monies – could not be infringed by the compulsory payment to employees for work not done.