GTUC praises High Court ruling in GTU vs GoG case; Notes impact on national and regional labour matters

GTUC praises High Court ruling in GTU vs GoG case; Notes impact on national and regional labour matters

The General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), Lincoln Lewis believes the ruling by Justice Sandil Kissoon last Friday in the case brought against the Government by the Guyana Teachers’ Union, has addressed key Constitutional issues, including the right to strike.

While ruling on the move by the Government to cut the salaries of teachers and to halt the deduction of union dues over their decision to engage in a 29-day strike, Justice Kissoon established that Guyanese have a right to strike, and not simply a freedom to strike.

During a virtual press conference today, Lewis said the Judge’s ruling has offered renewed hope that the Constitution can work, and is there to protect and advance the rights of citizens, and not to embolden Governments to transgress them. 

“The decision included that there exist a right to strike in the circumstances where an employer has taken the decision not to negotiate with the trade union. The termination of the check off is illegal and must continue. The deduction from the salaries of the teachers is illegal due to the fact that the employer refuse to negotiate. The dereliction in the performance of the duties of the Chief Labour Officer in seeking to address the issues as requested by the union,” the GTUC General Secretary said.

He said the landmark ruling has prevented the Government from cutting off the lifeblood of the GTU, noting that if the Government was successful, it would have turned on any Union challenging its violations and transgressions.

Lewis said it is clear that from Government’s posture in and out of the Courtroom, it was never prepared to play by the rules, and it is therefore important for the Unions to unite against any violation of workers’ right.

He said the trade union community must recognize that the GTU has led the way on this landmark victory, which is important not only to Guyana, but the wider Caribbean and CARICOM nations, as he saluted the leadership of the GTU President Mark Lyte and General Secretary, Coretta McDonald.

“The labour union has proven with its collective membership from all races and communities that Guyanese can come together on issues, fight and win their battles and struggles against common threats to their collective well-being.  It’s a lesson that must be enshrined. Our teachers from all races, ethnic and political persuasions rejected race, ethnic and political baiting to show the world and other Guyanese we can achieve as a united labour movement,” Lewis said.

The GTUC was an added party in the case brought against the Government by the Teachers’ Union. In his ruling the judge found that the Government through its actions sought to “sideline” and “undermine” the Union, and did not engage the Union in collective bargaining despite the best efforts of the GTU.

He ruled that the strike by the teachers was “just” and “fair,” and the salaries of teachers should not be withheld. It was also found that the decision to stop the deduction of union dues from the salaries’ of teachers on behalf of the union was “discriminatory,” “unilateral” and “unconstitutional”

Government has rejected the ruling, and has signaled its intention to appeal it.

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