Teachers agree to call off strike empty-handed to allow for conciliation

Last Updated on Friday, 21 June 2024, 22:10 by Writer

GTU President Dr Mark Lyte and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education Shannielle Hoosein-Outar and their delegations leaving the Ministry of Labour

The Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) on Friday agreed to call off the strike in talks with the Ministry of Education to allow the two sides to hold conciliation talks in the presence of the Chief Labour Officer on the period that should be the subject to pay talks.

GTU President Dr Mark Lyte said the teachers are due to return to work by next week Tuesday. The Terms of Resumption includes no victimisation and no loss 0f seniority.

Despite the union’s original insistence on a 20 percent interim salary increase or a GY$150,000 one-off -payment to all teachers as a condition for calling off the now estimated 7o-day long strike, GTU President Dr Mark Lyte said teachers eventually agreed to forgo any financial demands to make way for conciliation. “During the lapse between June 10th and now, we went back to our membership to state the position that the government has adopted and the members have indicated to us that they are prepared to allow the process to be followed minus the interim payment or the cash grant,” he said. GTU General Secretary, Coretta McDonald hoped that the two sides could reach agreement before schools reopen in September.

He stressed that Friday’s signing of the Terms of Resumption was as a result of new consultations. The union wants government to negotiate salary increases on a proposal for 2019 to 2023 but the government continues to maintain that pay negotiations must be for a multi-year agreement beginning 2024. “Both sides are committed. As you can see, one of the clauses says that we are prepared to negotiate in good faith so let’s see what that good faith will be,” he said.

“Key to this would be the clause that allows us to return in the new week to have conciliation on the time-frame and also both parties have agreed to be bound by the 1990 Grievance Procedure Memorandum and that stipulates the timelines for all the processes,” he said.

Asked whether the decision to go back to work was due to fears that teachers’ names could be struck off the paysheet if they are not at school on the last day and first day of the academic year, the GTU President admitted that a number of teachers had raised that as a concern “but there is no documentation, there is no policy document to say that a teacher has to be there first or last day.” At the same time, Dr Lyte said that had happened to a number of teachers in the past. He said during consultations, many teachers said that whether or not the strike was called off they were going to resume duty on or before the last day of school.

GTU Vice President, Collis Nicholson was the one who had flagged the removal of teachers’ names from the paysheets as a major concern.

Ms McDonald said she was “happy” that the two sides have reached “consensus” especially at a time when students were suffering from learning loss. “While we were going back and forth, the nation’s children were suffering all this time and that was our concern. While we are concerned about our teachers’ welfare, the nation’s children were suffering,” she said.

Ms McDonald said that teachers and students would be unable to regain lost time but more money would have to be spent to deal with deviant behaviours.

The GTU is concerned that it is not getting the backing from other affiliates of the Guyana Trades Union Congress, Caribbean Union of Teachers, and Education International.