Proposed teachers’ strike not legal, Manickchand says gov’t focused on supporting teachers
The Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) has threatened to take industrial action from next Monday over its disappointment over talks on salary increases and other issues.
On Wednesday, however, the Minister of Labour Joseph Hamilton and Minister of Education Priya Manickchand both said the proposed strike action is not legal since the stages of engagements have not been completed.
“GTU is seeking to reach arbitration, which is stage four, when we haven’t even dealt with stage one,” Hamilton told reporters on Wednesday.
According to him, engagements between the Ministry of Education and the GTU on the proposed Multi-Year Agreement that includes salary increases have not broken down, so by law the Union cannot call for the Labour Ministry to intervene in an arbitration process.
And if that cannot be done, he said an industrial action now would not be legal.
In such cases, the parties would first engage in discussions and negotiations as has been the case between the Education Ministry and the Union. If that doesn’t work out well, a process of conciliation follows; this helps both parties to develop their own proposed solutions. Then, there is mediation which involves the support of a neutral third party.
Arbitration is the final phase of such engagements. Through this, the parties settle their disagreement by putting the matter to arbitrators who make a binding decision on the matter.
Hamilton and Manickchand stated that the talks between the parties have not progressed beyond bilateral engagements.
Manickchand, also during an engagement with reporters on Wednesday, said GTU officials met with Education Ministry officials that same day to hammer out proposed measures to reduce teachers’ workload in schools.
With those talks ongoing, the Education Minister accused the GTU General Secretary Coretta McDonald of pushing for this strike action for “narrow political gain.”
According to her, the Education Ministry has been engaging the Union in good faith, acting on about 24 of the body’s 41 proposed measures so far. And she said the government is focused on teachers’ holistic welfare and not just increasing their salaries.
“I don’t think an objective examination of the issue will show that we have not been interested in teachers’ welfare. We are not going to look at salaries and not other aspects of their welfare,” she said.
So she urged teachers not to engage in the illegal strike action and appealed for all parties to put the interest of Guyana’s learners first.