GTU President accuses Government of not wanting to compromise on salary talks dispute

GTU President accuses Government of not wanting to compromise on salary talks dispute

With an increasing lack of trust and confidence in Ministry of Labour, President of the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU), Mark Lyte today said international arbitrators may be better suited to resolve the ongoing wage dispute between the Union and the Ministry of Education. 

As he stood outside the Office of the President today along with protesting teachers, Mr. Lyte told reporters that the process should advance to arbitration, as the Government has shown no sign of shifting from its position that it would only consider a wage package for 2024 and onwards. 

“A binding arbitration is definitely the way forward because we have seen the compromised position of the state officials, even in their statements as recent as last week, they were talking about 2024 [agreement]. How can we go into talking about a timeframe when the position is clear, repeatedly from the government. So, there is going to be no fairness meted out to the working-class people of this country, and therefore, having a neutral international arbitrator would be the way to go but I don’t know if the government has what it takes to make that happen,” the GTU President said. 

However, he acknowledged that given the current stalemate over the conditions for the resumption of duty by teachers, the process has not advanced to conciliation, to pave way for arbitration. 

“We have not activated the grievance procedure because we are not at conciliation. Where we are at presently is a meeting to determine the resumption clause, and the conditions and terms before we get into conciliation. That would allow for us to indicate whether we trust the mediators, and makes way for an arbitrator to be appointed to look at the matter,” he explained. 

Lyte’s statement comes one day after the Ministry of Labour offered to continue working as an interlocuter in the talks between the Union and the Education Ministry. 

But the Union is insisting that among the conditions for the strike to be called off, is for the Minister of Labour to recuse himself from the matter.

It is also demanding an interim 20% across-the-board payment to all teachers, and for there to be compromise on the timeframe for the proposed multi-year-agreement to be negotiated. 

Lyte, while accusing the Labour Minister of “showing his hand,” rejected the Government’s contention that an interim payment would be illegal and unjust. 

“Absolutely legal, because we have seen that this was done in 1999 when there was a massive strike in Guyana that the Unions got I think it was a 4.6% advance payment, interim payment. So, to say it is illegal when the precedence is set already,” the GTU President said. 

But in an interview with News Source, the Minister of Labour, Joe Hamilton, said the request for him to recuse himself is grounded in ignorance. 

“The minister’s role, it has nothing to do with Hamilton, it has to do with who is the Minister of Labour in the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. The Minister’s role is grounded in what the Labour Act says so, he is bound by what the Labour Act says, his role in this,” Minister Hamilton said. 

He said the trade unionists in the Guyana Teachers’ Union ought to know better. 

Further, while stating that the process of conciliation has not commenced, the Labour Minister said the two sides were meeting in the presence of the Chief Labour Officer to discuss the narrow issue of the timeframe, and it was not for the Union to add conditions. 

“What was the narrow item. One party saying, they want the conversation to be around 2019-2023, the other party saying, I would only have this conversation about salaries and benefits for teachers beginning in 2024. And that was the issue, no other issue. So, the GTU is in no position to add interim 20%, the minister recusing himself, all kinds of stupidity. The question is whether they are an honest partner, whether they want this matter to end, because they must know that if they step outside the process regarding conciliation, the Ministry of Education will not accept new conditions,” Minister Hamilton said. 

He maintained that before conciliation could commence, the situation must return to normalcy, and for that to happen, the strike must come to an end as required under the 1990 Avoidance and Settlement of Disputes Agreement. 

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