Tue | Jul 23, 2024

Talks to end teachers strike in Guyana hit stalemate

Published:Tuesday | May 21, 2024 | 8:54 AM
Teachers on strike in Guyana. - CMC photo.

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, CMC – Talks between the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) and the Ministry of Education for a 20% interim salary increase pending final negotiations and the need for a fixed timeframe for mediation ended Monday evening in a stalemate.

A statement issued by the Ministry said it “maintained that there be strict adherence to the 1990 agreement and that the grievance procedure be followed as per the said agreement.

“In this regard, the MOE indicated to GTU that they must end the strike before conciliation can commence on the impasse,” the statement said.

“The Ministry of Education insists that the Guyana Teachers' Union acts in good faith and honours this agreement. Conciliation cannot commence until the strike has ended and a state of normalcy returns. The Ministry of Education reiterates its readiness to work together to determine a multi-year agreement from 2024,” the statement added.

No date has been fixed for the two sides to meet in the presence of the Chief Labour Officer, Dhaneshwar Deonarine.

GTU president Dr Mark Lyte said the union is maintaining its position regarding the demand for the pre-negotiations payout, saying it is a “safety net for teachers who take a stand with the union” because of government's history of negotiating in bad faith.

“Given our experience in the past, we cannot compromise on that…an interim payment is necessary to bringing the situation to normalcy,” he told reporters.

Lyte said that the interim payment would be a guarantee that the Irfaan Ali government would be serious about the negotiations, and any additional increases emerging out of negotiations whenever they are held would be an addition.

The GTU said that the strike by the teachers would continue.

Three months ago, the GTU began the industrial action, but halted it after filing a court case over the government's planned decision to slash the salaries of striking teachers and to also discontinue deducting union dues from the teachers from the union.

Teachers went back to work as the court case was being heard.

An earlier effort at mediation at first appeared to be working, but then the government started to insist that it would only be dealing with negotiations for this year moving forward.

With the government signalling that it would be appealing Justice Sandil Kissoon's judgement to the Guyana Court of Appeal and with the likelihood that the case going to the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the country's final court of appeal, the GTU said it was aware of the risk of ultimately losing the case but was prepared to return to the streets for a “livable salary that is compatible with our years of training and experience”

The GTU is demanding salary negotiations from 2019 to 2023, while government is refusing to budge from offering a new multi-year agreement from 2024.

The GTU's proposal provides for 25 per cent in 2019 and 20 per cent for 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023.

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