The Guyana Teachers Union [GTU] is beginning to see clear signs that efforts at setting up an arbitration panel to negotiate a multi-year salary agreement for public school teachers is being undermined by government.
According to GTU President, Mr. Mark Lyte, the union has evidence to support the conclusion that the education team it met with last Friday, did not come prepared to meet in good faith.
At the meeting presided over by the Social Protection Ministry’s Labour Department; the education team, including Chief Education Officer, Marcel Hutson, and Permanent Secretary [ag], Ms Adele Clarke; rejected all three of the nominees submitted by the union, one of whom could have easily qualify for the chairmanship of the arbitration panel.
The names submitted by the union were: Rashleigh Jackson, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs; Mr. Jeffrey Thomas, a former Minister of Education, Labour and Regional Development; and Dr. Aubrey Armstrong who in 1999, chaired the Arbitration Tribunal between the Guyana Public Service Union and the Government of Guyana.
The meeting should have seen the two sides agreeing on the chairperson and either side submitting the name of one member to make up the arbitration panel.
But the Ministry did not only reject the union’s nominees, but went on to submit two names of officials who are currently employed by the State as suitable candidates for the chairmanship. The names submitted by the education team were: Mr. Derrick Cummings Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Telecommunications; and Mr. Glendon Harris, the Human Resource Manager of the Guyana Revenue Authority. The union rejected both nominees.
Lyte, however, told this publication yesterday that while it had appeared that the Education Ministry’s move to seek the intervention of the Social Protection Ministry to nominate the chairperson was the logical next step, from all indications, the whole process was orchestrated.
The union was able to decipher this development after it received two letters – one from the Social Protection Ministry indicating its intent to intervene and another in which the Education Ministry made the request for the intervention.
It was the latter correspondence that Lyte said revealed a rather conniving move. According to Lyte, the date of the Education Ministry’s correspondence, July 14, 2018, to the Social Protection Ministry is a clear indication that the rejection tactic was premeditated. This is in light of the fact that the date of the correspondence was the same date the two sides met with the intent of setting up of the arbitration panel.
“How is it they could have made that request to the Social Protection Ministry on that day and that meeting ended after working hours? Added to that, the meeting ended with us deciding to meet on another date to continue our discussion,” said Lyte.
The official is moreover, convinced that “this is a clear indication that they [the education team] came with the intent to reject all of the names, regardless of who we brought to the table, and that is a matter of concern for us.”
According to Lyte, this development has confirmed the union’s suspicion that the education team was merely acting on instructions from “higher up” and not in the best interest of teachers. “We are of the firm view that government is unwilling to address the concerns of teachers as it relates to salary and other financial benefits for teachers,” Lyte opined.
And should the government continue along this path, Lyte said that the union will not hesitate to resume industrial action until all of its demands are met.