President David Granger could be subverting the ongoing arbitration issue between the Guyana Teacher’s Union (GTU) and the Labour Department causing it to remain at a standstill.
This was the view proffered by People’s Progressive Party (PPP) General Secretary and Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo.
When questioned about the issue at a press conference held on Thursday, the former President recalled that initially, at the behest of Granger, a High Level Task Force was put in place to deal with the issue of teachers’ salary increases.
Following the negotiations between the said Task Force and GTU, a report with recommendations was handed over to the President.
However, after the Task Force agreed with the majority of the Union’s demands, their recommendations were never acted upon.
According to Jagdeo, the report was taken back to the President who found that it was not acceptable; as such, he questioned whether Granger might be behind the entire impasse.
“The President promised a Task Force of senior Government officials and then they come back to the President and he says that the report is not acceptable…he (President) may very well be behind this” Jagdeo contended.
Notwithstanding his assertion, the Opposition Leader said he pleaded with the President to get directly involved in the situation as it is now at a “frustrating” point.
“I pleaded with the President to get involved directly, people weren’t happy when I said that he should do something about the mouth of Keith Scott but really I was just expressing a similar frustration that the teachers are experiencing. They went back in good faith, only now to be faced again with unilateral actions on the part of Government and it seems as though the Government is encouraging, baiting the teachers with their language, threatening them to lock people up etc. It’s like they want a confrontation with the teachers and then the Minister will go around at some schools and try to get the parents to blame the teacher’s again. But I hope that the parents are looking on” Jagdeo cautioned.
GTU’s President Mark Lyte on Wednesday called on its members to be on standby as it gears for another round of strike action; this time on a larger scale if the arbitration process does not pull through.
This decision came following many failed talks between the Union and Labour Department, the most recent being Government’s move to unilaterally appoint as Chairman of the arbitration panel, University of Guyana Dean, Dr Leyland Lucas even though the Union was in the process of putting fourth their nominees for the position.
According to the Union, it is also prepared to take the Education Ministry, and more so, the Government to court, if any action is taken against teachers who will be going on strike.
With the Union hinting at countrywide strikes again, the Education Ministry had pointed to a section of the arbitration agreement which states “during the consideration of the matter in dispute under the grievance procedure, there shall be no strike, stoppage of work whether of a partial or general nature, go slow, boycott, picketing, retardation of production or any other interference with the Ministry’s operations by the Union, nor shall there be any lock out or any other form of interference by the Ministry. Both parties shall endeavour to maintain a state of normal industrial relations”.
However, challenging this, Lyte explained that there was no breach as “the arbitration panel and the Terms of Reference are the first two steps to setting arbitration… but arbitration, in our view, hasn’t started as yet so if that is to happen, the GTU would have no other course but to walk the steps of the court with them (Education Ministry) because we are prepared to ensure that our members do not suffer in any way, so we will be prepared to go to court as well”.
The Union on Wednesday gave the Ministry seven days to withdraw Lucas as the Chairman of the arbitration panel.