Govt appeals High Court ruling in favour of teachers’ union

Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 May 2024, 23:26 by Writer

The Guyana government on Wednesday asked the Court of Appeal to throw out High Court Judge, Sandil Kissoon’s entire decision that the teachers’ strike to demand collective bargaining was lawful and legitimate and so monies from their salaries must not be deducted for day off the jog.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall also applied to the Guyana Court of Appeal for a stay of aspects of the High Court’s decision of 19th April, 2024 pending the hearing and determination of the appeal. Those that the government wants stayed are the continued deduction of union dues from the salaries of teachers, and their remittance to the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU).

In an affidavit in support of summons, Chief Education Officer of the Ministry of Education, Saddam Hussain said government stopped the deduction of the union dues because the union had failed to submit its accounting records to the Auditor General of Guyana since 1989 and the Registrar of Trade Unions since 2004. “In the face of this glaring lack of transparency and accountability on the part of the Union – moreover, in respect of the lack of accountability in relation to Union dues which the Government was deducting gratuitously from the salaries and transmitting same to the Union – coupled with the Government’s own legal duty under various statutory provisions and under the doctrine of good and accountable governance, the Government decided to review its decision of continuing this gratuitous service to the GTU,” he said.

Further, he added that government relied on previous court rulings that government was not compelled to deduct and remit membership dues to trade unions.

The Attorney General, in his Notice of Appeal, documented his contention that the High Court Judge erred when he found in his decision that the teachers enjoyed a right and freedom to strike. Instead, Mr Nandlall said there no was constitutional right to strike but freedom to do so.

“The Learned Trial Judge erred when he found that there is no difference between a right to strike and the freedom to strike, notwithstanding that the Constitution of Guyana, Chp. 7:011 does not provide for a right to strike, rather the freedom to strike is expressly guaranteed by Article 147 of the Constitution,” he said.

Touching on Justice Kissoon’s decision that the striking teachers must be paid their salaries in full because government had repeatedly rebuffed efforts by the union to collectively bargain for increased salaries, the Attorney General stated his Notice of Appeal that the judge failed to adhere to the constitutional right to property.

“The Learned Trial Judge erred and misdirected himself in law when, in construing Article 147(2) of the Constitution, he failed to give any or
adequate consideration to the fundamental right not to be deprived of property as guaranteed by Article 142 of the said Constitution.

“The Learned Trial Judge erred and misdirected himself in law when he held that the strike action called by a trade union was ‘justified’ and that the ‘no work no pay’ principle had no applicability, and that the employer was required to pay wages which had not been earned, contrary to and in contravention of the provisions of the Labour Act, Chap: 98:01,” Mr Nandlall said in his court documents.