The Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) says it is prepared to take the government to the court if action is taken against educators who are likely to proceed on industrial action in the coming weeks.
The teachers union is planning to call a countrywide strike in the coming weeks if the government does not rescind the appointment of Professor Leyland Lucas as Chairman of the arbitration panel to look at a possible increase of teachers’ salaries. Lucas was appointed by the Ministry of Labour on Tuesday last, after the Union and the Education Ministry failed to agree on the nominations put forward.
Following an initial announcement to call a second strike action, the Education Ministry released a statement in which it warned the union against any further industrial action, noting that such action will be a breach of the Memorandum of Agreement signed in July 1983 regarding the settling and avoidance of disputes.
However, President of the GTU, Mark Lyte on Wednesday at a press conference said it does not see any breach being committed because “as we’re concerned, the arbitration panel and the terms of reference are the first two steps to setting arbitration on trail but arbitration in our view, hasn’t started as yet.”
If the Ministry proceeds to implement consequences, the Union President said “GTU will have no other choice but to walk the steps of the court with them because we are prepared to ensure that our members do not suffer in any way;so we will be prepared to go to the court generally.”
Also present at the press conference were representatives of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) and the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) who have vouched to put their support behind the union this time around.
Head of the GTUC, Lincoln Lewis said the issue is more than teachers’ wages, “this issue is about the trade union community –a flagrant violation of fundamental rights and freedom by the Government of Guyana.”
He believes that that if this issue is not addressed head on, it will lead to a time where the unions will be powerless.
“There are two issues in this case; one is the issue of salaries and improved working conditions, and secondly is the breach of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of 1990 and if we continue to allow Governments and employers to breach these things, there will be a time that we will have no say,” Lewis pointed out.
While the two trades union have showed their support, they are yet to determine what form this will take.
The GTU has requested “physical support.”
The GTUC said it will support the Union in whatever way it takes “to bring the employer to the table.”
General Secretary of FITUG, DawchanNagasar said the Federation will be giving support–“anything that is requested by the GTU” after discussion.
The GTU believes that there is some sinister plan afoot with the appointment of Professor Leyland Lucas.
The GTU President said meetings were already held with its supporters in each region and assurances were given that there will be full cooperation.
Teachers proceeded on Industrial action on August 27, 2018 –a strike which ran in to the first week of the new school term and left several schools closed, following the non-agreement on salary increases.
The Ministry eventually agreed to move the process to arbitration and agreed to a deadline of one month for the panel to complete the process.
However, it has been a month since the protest was called off and the arbitration process has not begun.