GTU considering move to Court over Government’s decision to stop deducting teachers’ union fees

GTU considering move to Court over Government’s decision to stop deducting teachers’ union fees

By Svetlana Marshall

President of the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU), Mark Lyte, announced today that the Union is preparing to take the Government to Court over its decision to stop deducting union fees from the salaries of teachers, for remittance to the GTU.  

Earlier this week, the Government, through the Ministry of Education, stated that the ongoing strike by teachers is illegal, and it will therefore no longer act as an agent of the GTU to deduct the monthly dues of $700 from the salaries of teachers on behalf of the union. 

While joining teachers in their picket outside the Ministry of Education today, Mr. Lyte told News Source that it is Ministry of Education, through its Permanent Secretary, Shannielle Hoosein-Outar, that is engaging in an illegal act. 

“We believe that it is an illegal document because the teachers have authorized the deductions. They wrote, indicating, we gave concession for these deductions. So, it is not the responsibility or within the power of the Permanent Secretary to say, we are stopping this. So, that in itself is a breach. And, the fact that you are collecting from others, you are acting as an agent for other entities, but now because you are vex with GTU, you are not going to collect [the dues]. So, that in itself is marginalization, and a case of clear victimization. So, we are taking the matter to Court and as I speak the documents are being filed,” Lyte said. 

Lyte said since the nationwide strike started on Monday, the Education Ministry has made no attempt to address the fundamental issues being raised by the teachers, instead choosing to “victimize” and “marginalize” teachers because of their strike action.

The GTU President said it is time for President Irfaan Ali to act in the best interest of the teachers, and have his agents return to the negotiating table. 

“He needs to get his office right, in ensuring that those persons responsible for negotiating, that they come to the table with us. The President goes around saying he is a man who visits the communities, and who is in touch with the people, and this year, is a clear indication of what a lack of in touch is all about because teachers should not have been brought on the road side. If you are in touch, you would have hear from the villages under the bottom house, during your walk through, how people are complaining about various,” Lyte said. 

He said the strike has grown significantly since Monday.

GTU President Mark Lyte

According to the GTU President, some 3,900 teachers did not show up for work on the first day of the strike, but the number of striking teachers has since surpassed 5,000.

He vowed that the strike will continue, until the substantive issue of wages and salaries is addressed. 

Meanwhile, Rights Activist and former Minister responsible for Labour under the APNU+AFC Government, Simona Broomes, said the current Minister of Labour, Joseph Hamilton, has failed miserably in the execution of his mandate, with respect to the ongoing strike.

Minister Hamilton has stated that the strike is illegal, on the grounds that the two sides were still in talks, and the conditions for conciliation and arbitration have not been met. 

 “I don’t believe that Labour has a minister. He is out of touch. The law that governs the ministry speaks to employer, employee. When it comes to a matter with a union, and the employer, the Ministry of Labour has to step in, first, before making a statement, speak with the union, which are the teachers. So, you meet with the union…and then say well I will go back to government, and then come back with a position but he has not done that,” Broomes reasoned. 

Broomes said the Labour Minister has taken the side of the Government, and the teachers have every right to protest.

APNU+AFC Member of Parliament, Nima Flue-Bess, who is also a teacher by profession, said it is time that the cries of teachers are heard.

“Teachers are here for a cause. If our needs are being met, then there is no need for teachers to be out here raising their voice, and asking for our needs to be met. Teachers have rights. Just like how the students have rights, the teachers have rights. And we have seen in the system several deficiencies and they make us uncomfortable. So, we are here demanding better working conditions and wages, and we are demanding that the government engage our union,” Flue-Bess said. 

The nationwide strike by the teachers has gained the support of other trade unions, a number of political parties, social activists, civil society organizations and even some parents. 

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