Teachers’ Union buckles to government’s multi-year pay hike timeframe

Last Updated on Saturday, 6 July 2024, 10:42 by Writer

After a more than 70-day long teachers’ strike for pay talks to first consider 2019-2023, the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) caved in on government’s long-held position that the multi-year agreement begin from 2024, according to statements from both sides.

The GTU said in a statement that it presented a new proposal from 2024 to 2026. “This was based on consultations with members,” the union said. The union did not disclose details of its proposal, but sought to assure members and the public that “our negotiating team is well-positioned to present a strong case for increased salaries and benefit to our members.”

That union suggested that it was the members’ decision to agree to negotiate from 2024 rather than 2019.

Less than one month ago before the GTU opted to call off the strike, return to work and engage in conciliation under the auspices of the Ministry of Labour’s Chief Labour Officer, top uni0n executives have expressed frustration that the strike was not getting the required support from parents, GTU branch officials who opted to work rather than strike, Guyana Trades Union Congress affiliates, Caribbean Union of Teachers, and Education International.

The Ministry of Education on Friday also said agreement was reached with the GTU on the timeframe for the new multi-year agreement. “The conciliation process has ended with the parties agreeing that the multi-year agreement will address a period commencing from 2024 and onwards,” the ministry said.

The decision to first call off the strike and later agree to the period for negotiating salary increases and other benefits comes amid grave uncertainty about whether the Guyana Court of Appeal and the Caribbean Court of Justice would rule that teachers could not be paid for the days they had been on strike.

The High Court had ruled in a case brought by the GTU that teacher must be paid for the days that they were on strike because it was government’s refusal to engage in collective bargaining that had prompted the industrial unrest. However, government has appealed that decision on the grounds that there is a constitutional right to property – in this case the State’s monies – and workers could not be paid for days off the job.

Prior to calling off the strike, the GTU had also failed to secure a 20-percent interim salary increase, resumption of the automatic deduction and remittance of membership dues or a one-off cash grant of GY$150,000 per teacher.