GTU drops interim payout demand as teachers strike ends ahead of conciliation

GTU drops interim payout demand as teachers strike ends ahead of conciliation

By Svetlana Marshall

The Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) has agreed to call off the ongoing strike by teachers, having reached an agreement with the Ministry of Education on the Terms of Resumption today.

Teachers are now expected to return to school by Tuesday, June 25, 2024.

Among the terms of that agreement are that there will be no victimization by either party, there shall be no loss of service for any teacher or educator, and teachers will return to their respective positions held before the strike. The GTU dropped its demand for a 20%  interim payout for teachers ahead of the conciliation.

President of the Guyana Teachers’ Union, Mark Lyte told reporters that the agreement would protect teachers from any form of victimization, and sets the stage for the process of conciliation to commence to hammer out the timeframe for the multi-year package for teachers.

“The normal clause within a term of resumption, which indicates that there will be no victimization, persons would not lose their seniority and stuff like that. But key to this would be the clause that allows us to return in the new week to have conciliation on the timeframe, and also, both parties have agreed to be bound by the 1990 Grievance Procedure Memorandum, and that stipulates the time for all the processes,” Lyte explained.

In response to questions on the absence of an interim payout, the GTU President said after a fresh round of consultation with teachers across the country, it was agreed that the interim payment should no longer be pursued. And it was against that background, that today’s agreement was reached.

“That was the mandate we were given prior to the previous sets of meeting. During the lapse between June 10th to now, we went back to our membership to state the position the government has adopted, and the members would have indicated to us that they are prepared to allow the process to be followed minus the interim payment or the cash grant. So, us coming back here to sign minus that clause is as a direct result of new consultation that took place, and the members have agreed that they are prepared to forgo that to allow the conciliation process to commence,” the GTU President explained.

Ahead of today’s meeting, members of the Union, including some of its Executives, had expressed concern that teachers could be struck off the Government’s paysheet if they fail to return to work by the last day of the current school term.  

But Lyte said while that precedent was a concern to some teachers, it is not documented in black and white. He said teachers simply wanted the process to move forward.

“Several teachers raised that as a concern but there is no documentation, there is no policy document to say a teacher has to be there first or last day but the normal practice we have seen in the past is that persons has had that happened to them if they didn’t report on the first day or the last day, and this is something a lot of teachers were concerned about, and they raised that during our consultation. So, many of them had indicated that whether the strike was called off or not they were going to resume duty on or before the last day of school,” Lyte explained.

General Secretary of the Teachers’ Union, Coretta McDonald told reporters that she was pleased with today’s outcome, noting that the nation’s children were losing critical hours of learning.

“I am happy that we were able to reach consensus, which in any discussion, any argument, any back and forth, you are not going to have everyone agreeing at the time on what is proposed by Party ‘A’ or what is proposed by Party ‘B’ and that is why we usually have the discussions. What we were seeking to have was a win-win for both sides. The government was saying one thing, the GTU was saying something else, and so, we were going back and forth, and 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,” McDonald told reporters.

She said the COVID-19 pandemic had resulted in significant learning loss, and it was therefore important to move the process forward so that children can return to their classrooms.

The strike, however, which has been ongoing for more than 70 days, comes to an end, just two weeks before the academic term ends. Conciliation is now set to begin next Wednesday.

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