Guyana teachers’ strike called off; conciliation talks to begin on Wednesday

Guyana teachers’ strike called off; conciliation talks to begin on Wednesday

The Guyana Teach­ers Union (GTU) Fri­day urged teach­ers to re­turn to their jobs by Wednes­day next week so that the con­cil­i­a­tion talks that led to the end of the 70-day strike on Fri­day could re­sume “as soon as pos­si­ble”.

“Teach­ers are ex­pect­ed to re­turn by Tues­day…on Wednes­day the union com­mences con­cil­i­a­tion. Now if you don’t re­turn in those two days the con­cil­i­a­tion can­not start and the ear­li­er the con­cil­i­a­tion starts the bet­ter it is for our teach­ers who have suf­fered, have gone through a lot of men­tal health is­sues and the union is cog­nizant of that,” GTU pres­i­dent Dr. Mark Lyte said in live state­ment on the GTU’s Face­book page.

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Priya Man­ickc­hand in a post on the so­cial me­dia plat­form, Face­book, con­firmed that the teach­ers will end the on­go­ing strike and re­sume work with­in two work­ing days.

Lyte said that the sit­u­a­tion has been a “very dif­fi­cult time for all of us” across Guyana and thanked the mem­ber­ship for stand­ing with the union “when no one lese stood” in­clud­ing the Guyana Trades Union Con­gress (GTUC), the Caribbean Union of Teach­ers (CUT) and Ed­u­ca­tion In­ter­na­tion­al.

Ac­cord­ing to the “Agree­ment on Re­sump­tion” doc­u­ment signed by GTU and Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion Of­fi­cials, “there shall be no vic­tim­iza­tion by ei­ther par­ty” as well as “there shall be no loss of ser­vice for any teacher/ed­u­ca­tor”.

In ad­di­tion, the agree­ment stip­u­lates “there shall be an end to the strike and full re­sump­tion of work by all teach­ers/ed­u­ca­tors with­in two work­ing days” and that the teach­ers and ed­u­ca­tors will re­turn to their re­spec­tive po­si­tions held be­fore the strike.

In ad­di­tion, there “shall beno trans­fers up­on re­sump­tion” and that ‘the sta­tus quo shall pre­vail sub­ject to any rul­ing which may em­anate from ex­tant le­gal pro­ceed­ings be­tween the two par­ties”.

There is al­so agree­ment that the re­sump­tion of the talks “shall be held in ac­cor­dance with the ex­ist­ing 1990 Mem­o­ran­dum of Agree­ment”.

The union had been seek­ing a 20 per cent in­ter­im salary in­crease or a GUY$150,000 (One Guyana dol­lar=US$0.004 cents) one-off -pay­ment to all teach­ers as a con­di­tion for call­ing off the strike, but Lyte said the teach­ers had even­tu­al­ly agreed to for­go any fi­nan­cial de­mands to make way for con­cil­i­a­tion.

“Dur­ing the lapse be­tween June 10th and now, we went back to our mem­ber­ship to state the po­si­tion that the gov­ern­ment has adopt­ed and the mem­bers have in­di­cat­ed to us that they are pre­pared to al­low the process to be fol­lowed mi­nus the in­ter­im pay­ment or the cash grant,” he said.

Lyte said Fri­day’s sign­ing of the Terms of Re­sump­tion was as a re­sult of a new con­sul­ta­tions.

The union wants gov­ern­ment to ne­go­ti­ate salary in­creas­es on a pro­pos­al for 2019 to 2023 but the gov­ern­ment con­tin­ues to main­tain that pay ne­go­ti­a­tions must be for a mul­ti-year agree­ment be­gin­ning 2024.

“Both sides are com­mit­ted. As you can see, one of the claus­es says that we are pre­pared to ne­go­ti­ate in good faith so let’s see what that good faith will be,” he said.

He not­ed: “Key to this would be the clause that al­lows us to re­turn in the new week to have con­cil­i­a­tion on the time-frame and al­so both par­ties have agreed to be bound by the 1990 Griev­ance Pro­ce­dure Mem­o­ran­dum and that stip­u­lates the time­lines for all the process­es”.

GTU gen­er­al sec­re­tary, Coret­ta Mc Don­ald, said she hopes that the two sides could reach agree­ment be­fore schools re­open in Sep­tem­ber.

“While we were go­ing back and forth, the na­tion’s chil­dren were suf­fer­ing all this time and that was our con­cern. While we are con­cerned about our teach­ers’ wel­fare, the na­tion’s chil­dren were suf­fer­ing,” she added.

Teach­ers be­gan their in­dus­tri­al ac­tion on Feb­ru­ary 5, in sup­port of their union’s de­mands for  high­er salaries  and du­ty-free con­ces­sions, among oth­er ben­e­fits.

Fol­low­ing a court me­di­at­ed process in March, talks be­tween the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion and GTU re­sumed. But the dis­cus­sions came to a halt when the min­istry in­di­cat­ed that there was no fis­cal space to cater for in­creas­es for the pe­ri­od 2019 -2023. In­creas­es for 2024 and fu­ture years were put for con­sid­er­a­tion in­stead.

Speak­ing at a news con­fer­ence on Thurs­day, Pres­i­dent Ir­faan Ali said there was the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the in­dus­tri­al ac­tion would end soon.

“There has been a lot of on­go­ing work, dis­cus­sions in re­la­tion to the re­sump­tion of work and al­so the is­sues raised by teach­ers.

“I don’t want to go in any ex­tend­ed way in re­sponse to this. From the most re­cent feed­back I have re­ceived, there seems to be some move­ment and in re­la­tion to get­ting to an ini­tial agree­ment on terms that will see this sit­u­a­tion re­sumed to some amount of nor­mal­cy,” Pres­i­dent Ali told a news con­fer­ence. —GEORGE­TOWN, Guyana (CMC)

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