GTU hints at int’l arbitration to end deadlock

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
GTU President Mark Lyte

Days after another meeting between the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) and the Ministry of Education had ended in deadlock, executive members of the GTU and teachers held a protest at the Office of the President on Thursday, during which GTU president Mark Lyte declared that, since both sides have been unable to come to a compromise, the best way to bring an end to the impasse is to engage international arbitrators.

“A binding arbitration is definitely the way forward, because we have seen the compromised position of the state officials. Even in their statements as recent as last week, they were talking about 2024 (agreement). How can we go into talking about a timeframe when the position is clear repeatedly from the Government? So, there is going to be no fairness meted out to the working-class people of this country; and therefore, having a neutral international arbitrator would be the way to go. But I don’t know if the Government has what it takes to make that happen,” the GTU President told reporters at the protest line.

He nevertheless reiterated that once the resumption conditions are not agreed upon, the conciliation cannot commence. “We have not activated the grievance procedure because we are not at conciliation. Where we are presently is a meeting to determine the resumption clause, and the conditions and terms before we get into conciliation. That would allow for us to indicate whether we trust the mediators, and make way for an arbitrator to be appointed to look at the matter,” he said.

Lyte was also adamant that the GTU demand of an interim 20 per cent across-the-board payout to all teachers must be met before the GTU begins conciliation talks. Apart from the 20 per cent payout, he is also calling for Labour Minister Joseph Hamilton to recuse himself from the process.

Minister Hamilton has deemed the GTU call for him to recuse himself from the process as pure ignorance. He added that the dispute had nothing to do with him acting in his capacity as a servant to the people of Guyana.

Following the deadlock, the Guyana Government, through the Education Ministry, is currently ironing out details for a one-stop portal to implement distance learning in order to combat the learning loss in schools, in light of the ongoing strike action called by the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU).

The GTU resumed strike action across the country two weeks ago, after talks with the Education Ministry had reportedly broken down. After protesting for five weeks, teachers had returned to the classroom on March 6 following the intervention of the High Court.

During a mediation, the two sides had agreed to return to discussions regarding salary increases. During the follow-up meetings, the union maintained that negotiations should begin from 2019 to 2023, but the Government held its ground and was willing to commence salary negotiations from 2024 and beyond.

To date, Government has said, it has already addressed over 20 issues affecting teachers with the aim of improving their working conditions and overall welfare.