GTU has not filed annual financial returns in 2 decades – Commerce Registrar

GTU President Mark Lyte and General Secretary Coretta McDonald

…no records submitted for audit since 1989 – Auditor General

The Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) is at risk of being struck off the Trade Unions Registry after it failed to submit financial statements for two decades despite collecting billions of dollars in dues from teachers over the years.

The GTU is currently leading a two-week strike by teachers across the country – a move which the Guyana Government says is illegal and politically driven.
In a brief statement on Friday, the Deeds and Commercial Registries Authority (DCRA) disclosed that the last financial report filed by the GTU was in 2005.

“…an examination of the relevant records at the Deeds and Commercial Registries Authority discloses that Annual Returns required by Section 35 of the Trade Unions Act, Cap. 98:03 to be filed annually by registered trade unions was last filed by the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) for the year ending 31st of December, 2004, on the 31st of March, 2005,” the DCRA stated.

Every month, a $700 fee is deducted from each unionised teacher and remitted to the GTU. This adds up to about $3.1 million monthly, and approximately $37 million annually.

According to the Trade Unions Act, Cap. 98:03, Section 35 (1): “A general statement of the receipts, funds, effects, and expenditure of every trade union registered under this Act shall be transmitted to the Registrar before the 1st May in every year, and shall show fully its assets and liabilities at the date, and its receipts and expenditure during the year preceding the date, to which the statement is made out; and shall show separately the expenditure in respect of the several objects of the union, and shall be prepared and made out up to the date, in the form, and comprise the particulars from time to time required by the Registrar; and every member of, and depositor in, the union shall be entitled to receive, on application, to the treasurer or secretary of the union, a copy of the general statement, without making any payment therefor.”

Under this same Section 35 at (3), it goes on to say that “Every trade union which fails to comply with or acts in contravention of this section, and also every officer of the union so failing, shall each be liable on summary conviction to a fine of seventy-five dollars for each offence”.

During a press conference on Thursday, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo questioned the transparency and accountability of the GTU, disclosing that its last audited statement was done in 1989, and financial statements to the Registrar were last submitted in 2005.

“Anywhere in the world, they would have been struck off and the membership would have been in uproar, but a cabal runs this union…Where are your accounts for 30 years? Why have they not been audited? How much money did you collect? The billions that you collected, where did it go? Why are you violating your own constitution that you have to do this?” the VP highlighted.

In response, GTU Vice President Collis Nicholson, on Friday, claimed that Jagdeo’s statements were “totally false”. In an interview with online news media site Demerara Waves, he said the union’s records are up to date and presented every three years to the Auditor General Office and Registrar of Trade Unions.

This, however, was debunked by the Office of the Auditor General, which also on Friday indicated that no financial records were received from the union to be audited.

“…the Auditor General wishes to confirm that the last Financial Statement submitted by the Guyana Teachers Union to the Audit Office of Guyana for audit was in respect to 1989 and no subsequent Financial Statement has since been submitted,” the statement detailed.

Meanwhile, Labour Minister Joseph Hamilton, during a live broadcast on Friday, called out the GTU official for “pathologically lying” to the public about the union’s state of affairs.

“The last financial report at the Ministry of Labour is 2004. Two decades now they have not submitted, as the law requires, their financial statements to the Registrar of Trade Unions. So, imagine this man [Nicholson] stood in front the camera and lied. He knows he was lying,” Hamilton stated.

According to the Labour Minister, the GTU’s failure to submit its Annual Returns puts it at risk of being struck off the Trade Unions Registry.

“The law speaks to failing [to submit financial records and] what should happen… If I pay strict attention to the law, the law talks about any trade union that fails to submit their audited financial statement to the Registrar of Trade Unions can be struck off the books… So, these people are shameless that they would lie when you have the documents, the information before you,” Hamilton stated.

The GTU initiated the two-week strike action, scheduled to last from February 5 to February 16, 2024, over Government’s failure to address proposals in a multi-year agreement submitted by the union for better working conditions for teachers.

However, out of the 41 demands proposed, the Education Ministry said it has already fulfilled 25 of them and among the remaining requests, some are solely beneficial to GTU executives.

The Education Ministry has already described the strike as illegal and has adopted a recommendation from the Labour Ministry not to pay the teachers who do not turn out to work. In addition, the Education Ministry has also indicated to the GTU that it would stop deducting dues from the wages and salaries of teachers on behalf of the union. This means the union would now have to collect its fees directly from teachers.