GTU and MoE in negotiation deadlock; Strike action to continue

GTU and MoE in negotiation deadlock; Strike action to continue

By Svetlana Marshall

Talks between the Ministry of Education and the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) with the Chief Labour Officer, ended today in a deadlock with the Education Ministry and Teachers’ Union failing to strike a compromise on the timeframe for the proposed multi-year agreement, and an interim payout of 20% ahead of conciliation.

The two sides met today at the Ministry of Labour with the hope of hammering out an agreement, but after close to three hours, there was no compromise. 

President of the GTU, Mark Lyte, upon exiting the meeting, told reporters that there was absolutely no progress made today. He said while the Union was prepared to compromise on the timeframe for the proposed 2019-2023 multi-year-agreement submitted four years, ago, it is not prepared to compromise on its demand for an interim across-the-board payment of 20% to all teachers.  

“Given our experience in the recent past, we can’t compromise on that. An interim payment is critical to bringing the situation to normalcy. And what it is, it is an interim in lieu of the negotiations, so it is like an advance and when the negotiations are completed then that advance is taken into consideration. So, let’s say we got a 20% and the negotiations proved to be 40%, then the government would only pay the additional 20%. So, that gives a safety net that they are going to be serious about the process. We have seen the process not being genuinely pursued and that is what we are guarding against,” Lyte explained. 

Last week, Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand told a press conference that the Union is unreasonable with its demand, contending that the issuance of an interim payment ahead of any negotiation would set a bad precedence, not only for trade relations in Guyana but across the region. 

Lyte rejected that contention. He said with no date set for another meeting, the Union would now await communication from the Ministry of Education, but in the interim, the strike continues. 

He said teachers responded positively to the call for continued industrial action over the need for Government to engage in collective bargaining. 

“If you look at the stats, we are not having a lot of days of protest but a lot of teachers are not at work, students are not at school, so the strike is really impacting the system to the extent that the ministry has done a different way of assessing [students] rather than having a final exam, they have gone to continuous assessment which gives an indication that all is not well in the education system. The strike will continue,” the GTU President said. 

In a statement earlier today, the Union said currently negotiation deadlock is seen as one of the most significant challenges in recent years, given the 2018 strike lasted just nine (9) days. The current strike action has been ongoing for over 40 days. 

It reminded that the 2019-2023 multi-year-proposal was submitted to the Government almost four years ago, with no real progress made with respect to negotiations.

The Union said it remains open to adjusting the years within this period given the impact of COVID-19 on economies around the world, and despite its willingness to compromise, the Education Ministry has shown no sign of shifting from its position that it is only prepared to negotiate a new agreement covering 2024 and beyond. 

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