High Court asks Gov’t not to deduct teachers’ salaries and deems strike ‘legitimate’

… Attorney General says will appeal ruling


In a marathon oral decision spanning about four hours, High Court Judge Sandil Kissoon ruled that teachers’ salaries should not be deducted following their participation in the recent five-week strike organised by the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU).

According to the Judge, teachers were involved in “legal and legitimate” industrial action since collective bargaining between the Ministry of Education and the Union was not properly held.

In the ruling, he also noted that the government acted “arbitrarily” when it halted the automatic deduction and transferral of union dues from teachers’ salaries. This was the second concern brought by the Union in its case.

Among other things, the Judge ordered that there should be no deduction or withholding of teachers’ salaries since doing so would be “arbitrary, unlawful, unreasonable and unconstitutional.”

He also ordered that the decision to continue the automatic check off system of deducting union dues from teachers’ salaries and paying it to the Union be quashed.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall engaging reporters after the ruling (Photo: News Room/ April 19, 2024)

Counsel for the GTU, Darren Wade; Attorney General Anil Nandlall, who represented the government and Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde, who represented the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), wrapped up their arguments in the case earlier in April.

It followed a period of cross-examination of witnesses and also a period of court-ordered mediation that has since resulted in the strike being called off and the government’s stated intention to deduct the salaries of striking teachers now on hold.

Immediately after the ruling, Mr. Nandlall said the government will appeal the court’s decision.

Nandlall’s main contention was that Judge Kissoon did not address the distinction between a “right to strike” and a “freedom to strike.”

According to him, Guyana’s constitution provides a freedom, not a right, to strike though doing so may incur sanctions such as withholding payments. In such cases, Nandlall said the issue of “no work, no pay” arises.

“Now you are going to have striking workers who are going to be compensated for work not done. What you have done there is you have turned the law upside down,” Nandlall lamented.

He added, “… you can’t use the tool of interpretation to expand the meaning of words beyond their natural grammatical meaning…. You can’t convert the term freedom into a right using interpretative mechanisms and principles.”

Memebrs of the Guyanese Teachers Union (GTU) including President Mark Lyte and other statekholders outside the courtroom on Friday (Photo: News Room/ April 19, 2024)

Nandlall also clarified that the government’s decision to deduct and dispatch union dues was a service being offered and not an action enshrined in law. So he was also concerned about the Judge’s pronouncement that the government’s decision to halt the deduction and transferral of those dues were arbitrary.

“It’s not grounded in the Constitution, it’s not grounded in contract, it’s not grounded in any other obligation so is it that the government for the rest of its life must continue offering this gratuitous service?” Nandlall quizzed.

Contrastingly, Mr. Forde opined that the ruling is a “significant” and “landmark” one that further strengthens the rights of workers in Guyana.

“I can’t underscore it enough but this is a significant win for labour and workers in this country,” Forde said.

GTU President Mark Lyte, who was also at the High Court on Friday, said the Union is energised by the ruling and looks forward to engaging the government on issues it hoped would be addressed during collective bargaining with the government.

1 Comment
  1. Premchand Baijnauth says

    This judge seems to have no knowledge of the law. He seems to be ignorant of the laws of the land or he is biased against the Govt. He is indicating that he could stay away from the bench and still be paid according to his logic. This deduction matter was already settled by the late Ian Chang. According to his mentality then any one could strike at their own will and must be paid. Look at this idiotic decision from some one who claimed to be knowledgeable. People like these are taking this country backward rather than forward. Is he in bed with the Unions.

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