Some striking teachers return to school over threats to cut salaries; Nationwide strike continues

Some striking teachers return to school over threats to cut salaries; Nationwide strike continues

The Guyana Teachers’ Union has revealed that a small number of teachers have returned to their classrooms in light of the Government’s decision to cut their salaries.

However, the President of the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU), Mark Lyte, today said the majority of teachers remain resolute, and are not prepared to head back to school until their salaries are increased. 

“There are reports that some teachers have returned to the classroom, basically, because of the threat, that letter that went out last Friday, which we see as a clear threat, and confirms, what we suspected all along, that it wasn’t the union that was threatening the teachers, but the Ministry of Education,” Lyte told reporters as teachers returned to the picket line for an eight day. 

He said while a “few” teachers have returned to work; thousands remain on the picket line each day.

“As you can see, the number of teachers that are out here, representing themselves, and showing solidarity with the union, the numbers are still high. So, we are not threatened about that. I think what it has done, it has aggravated more teachers, so while some may have gone out back on Monday, we found that they did not return to work on Tuesday or today. So, it is not a case where we are worried about that. We have enough numbers out here and our data shows that our teachers are supporting the union because they understand that we need to work for a livable wage,” Lyte said.

GTU Regional Vice President (Demerara), Collis Nicholson, told News Source that in the County of Demerara, more than 85% of the teachers remain on strike. 

“In some areas, there are some teachers going in but it is not a lot, and if we look at what has been happening throughout the county and in the other two counties, you would recognize that many of our teachers are apart of, and in solidarity with the industrial action. They may not be literally on the road but they are at home,” Nicholson said.  

He said the union will not buckle under pressure from the government. 

The decision by the Government to cut the salaries of teachers, has been met with resistance, and the GTU has since moved to the High Court to block the move.

Outside the Ministry of Labour today, where striking teachers continued with their protest demanding that their needs be met, GTU General Secretary, Coretta McDonald expressed hope that the Court will find favour with Union’s application. 

“We have a whole lot of faith in the Courts. We believe that there are professional people who operate in the Courts, and we are hoping that they are going to use the legal arguments and make a pronouncement on that,” McDonald said, noting that the Union has a strong case against the government. 

Even with an application before the Court, McDonald said the Union stands ready to engage in dialogue with the Government to discuss the substantive issue of salaries. Government’s reaction, or non-action will determine whether the strike will continue beyond this week, she said.

“If the government is ready to talk then, we are open to talking with them. As a matter of fact, we would have submitted our proposal to the government, expecting that the government would submit to us a counter proposal, we have not received that. All we are seeing is some 27-point document that they are talking about, and we are not sure what exactly they are saying, because if you compare that with the proposal we have submitted, it has nothing to do with that. As a matter of fact, the main issue that we are arguing about at this time, is that of salaries,” McDonald said. 

The GTU said while the Government has addressed a number of policy issues related to teachers, it continues to dodge negotiations on the main issue of salary increases.

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