Manickchand says GTU being “unreasonable” with demands for resumption of work by striking teachers

Manickchand says GTU being “unreasonable” with demands for resumption of work by striking teachers

Less than 24 hours after the Guyana Teachers Union laid out its demands before teachers resume duties, Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand has described the union’s proposal for an interim 20% across-the-board payout to teachers as “unreasonable.”

At a press conference, Ms. Manickchand, who was flanked by officials of her Ministry, said the Education Ministry will not give in to unacceptable demands, making it clear that it will not engage in negotiations under duress. 

“The GTU’s insistence that an across the board 20% be paid before any talks can happen is duress. Given the GTU’s many years as a trade union body, they must know that this is unusual, unacceptable, unreasonable and would result in the breakdown in talks,” the Education Minister told reporters at her Brickdam Office.

 In a statement earlier today, the Teachers’ Union said the interim 20% across-the-board payment to teachers should be made immediately, as it laid out the five conditions put forward for the resumption of work, to pave way for the conciliation process to address the timeframe for the multi-year agreement to be negotiated. 

But Minister Manickchand, while accusing the Union of breaching an agreement between the two sides not to discuss elements of their discussions in the public domain, said it is clear that the teachers are being used “as pawns in a much larger, politically directed plot.”

Minister Manickchand explained that the Education Ministry, with the hope of bringing an end to the ongoing strike and the impasse over the timeframe for the multi-year agreement, initiated the Conciliation process, and while the first day of negotiations ended with the parties agreeing to three of the four proposed conditions for resumption of work, it was not until the second day, that Teachers’ Union whipped out a second set of conditions.

Those conditions include the 20% across-the-board payment to teachers, a request for the Minister of Labour Joseph Hamilton to recuse himself from the negotiation process, and that full resumption of duties shall occur, and conciliation begin only after those additional conditions are met. 

“We were sitting at a table to see how we can reach that compromise [regarding the timeframe for negotiation] and when we were at a place of reaching an agreement where we can not sit down and start thrashing out which years we want to look at, when that looked possible, when that looked likely, when that looked like everybody was going to be able to sign on these dotted lines is when the union whipped out a document that they clearly had the day before, it is dated the 13th [May], but they kept it in their back pocket and as soon as this thing was about to resolute itself, they whipped out something that they must know is unreasonable,” Minister Manickchand said.  

GTU President Mark Lyte

The Education Minister said at the end of Monday’s meeting, the two sides had agreed that there will be a full resumption of work by teachers within 48 hours of the strike being called off, and that there will be no victimization and there shall be no break in service. She emphasized that at the time, there were only two outstanding issues regarding the process of conciliation and provisions for legal actions. 

The Education Ministry, she said, is willing to pick up where the two sides left off on Monday, but will not let the Union hold a ‘gun’ to its head, by making additional demands that are simply unacceptable.

“The Government is not going to sit at a table with these kinds of unreasonable demands and accede to them. It would be very very bad precedent not only for the Guyana Government but for Governments across the region, if we were to allow this to happen,” the Education Minister said. 

The two sides are expected to meet again on Monday, May 20, 2024 in the presence of the Chief Labour Officer. 

Asked whether the Education Ministry will push for arbitration should talks break down come Monday, Minister Manickchand said the process of conciliation must be exhausted in accordance with the 1990 Memorandum of Agreement before there is any attempt at arbitration. 

Minister Manickchand said there is still space for the Union to return to the negotiation table on Monday with a reasonable position, in keeping with established industrial relation practices. 

You must be logged in to post a comment Login