Judge proposes mediation to settle dispute between Government and striking teachers; AG asks for 24hrs to consider

Judge proposes mediation to settle dispute between Government and striking teachers; AG asks for 24hrs to consider

High Court Judge, Sandil Kissoon, has proposed the initiation of a Court appointed mediation process that would allow for the Government and the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) to meet and discuss the ongoing dispute that has resulted in a nationwide strike by teachers over their salaries.

The intention is to resolve the matter, and ultimately bring an end to the strike action by teachers, which would pave the way for teachers and students to return to the classroom.

In Court today, the Guyana Teachers’ Union readily agreed to the proposed mediation process, but Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, told the Court that the Government would need 24 hours to consider the proposal. 

Justice Kissoon, who at the time was hearing a contempt case involving the Chief Education Officer Saddam Hussain, questioned why there has been no movement by the Government and the Union to resolve the matter, while expressing concern for the nation’s children. 

“I want to ask… it is not time that a pathway, a conversation, be explored to see whether a resolution…a common ground can be found… to have our nation’s precious resources, our teachers and students back in school?” the Judge questioned. 

Justice Kissoon, while touting Senior Counsel Edward Luckhoo as a possible mediator, wanted the conversation to start today, pointing out that all parties in the matter, including the Chief Education Officer, and the President of the GTU, were present in Court.

But the Attorney General said Government would need time to consider. 

“I can’t commit to such a process, as I indicated to the Court that I act on behalf of a collective. The collective is the Government of Guyana, and so I have to go and get instructions from the Government of Guyana, and report back to the Court,” the Attorney General told reporters outside the courtroom.  

The Attorney General, said based on information provided by the CEO, the Education Ministry invited the Union to a meeting last Wednesday, but union officials were a no show. He said the Government will consider the court’s proposal and make its position known.

However, inside the Court, the GTU President on being called upon by the Judge to weigh in on the proposal, told the Court that more than three weeks ago, the Union wrote the Ministry of Education expressing a willingness to meet, but there has been no response.

“GTU has always given a commitment, and I speak on behalf of all of the members and the executive of GTU, that we are ready to commence those talks. We believe that not only our teachers are affected in this case but all of Guyana – the learners – we have some important examinations. So, the talks would pave the way for us to decide, if or when we go back and how,” Lyte told reporters after stepping out of the courtroom. 

Counsel for the GTU, Darren Wade told reporters he was disappointed that the Attorney General was unable to commit to such a process immediately. 

“If you look at the application that was filed, and it was alluded to from the beginning, that several attempts were made by the Union to engage the Government, today in Court, the President was there, and he said, yes, we are prepared to meet with the Government, and the Attorney General cannot give the Court an undertaking that they could meet with the Union. He has to go and talk to his superiors. This is about the fourth week this strike is going on and there is no move by the government to engage the union. There is no move whatsoever, and that saddens me,” Wade said. 

The Government has asked for 24 hours to consider the proposal to engage in mediation. As such, the matter will come up again before Justice Kissoon tomorrow at 3pm for the parties to state their position. They are also expected to each propose a mediator during that hearing. 

It was noted in Court that while the mediation process is being considered, the substantive matter over the Government wanting to cut the salaries of striking teachers, remains in place. 

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