‘The strike continues’ as conciliation fails

Education Minister and Chief Education Officer Marcel Hutson at a recent meeting with parents

The third round of conciliation at the Social Protection Ministry’s Labour Department did not attain the desired outcome, as both the Education Ministry and the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) held steadfast to their positions.

As such, the nationwide strike where teachers are demanding increased wages remains enforced which was confirmed by GTU General Secretary Coretta McDonald on Thursday.

“The strike continues,” she asserted, following the meeting which was chaired by operatives of the Labour Department.

The GTU had earlier expressed no confidence in this labour team since it comprised Government officers who were advocating on the Education Ministry’s behalf. The first conciliation meeting did not go off as planned as the GTU was a no-show but the second round held earlier this week ended in impasse. When the interested parties engaged in discussions for a second time on Thursday, the Education Ministry came equipped with ‘position paper’ outlining its terms why conciliation should be exhausted before arbitration commences.

The Ministry proposed again that both parties be allowed to benefit from conciliation in accordance with the labour laws. Like the Union, it also proposes that there be no victimisation by either side.

According to a release issued on Thursday, Chief Labour Officer Charles Ogle maintained that the conciliatory process must be exhausted before arbitration can take place, having reiterated his earlier plea to the Union to call off the Strike so that the conciliation process can continue. The Social Protection Ministry said in light of the differing positions, the meeting was adjourned.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Nicolette Henry while speaking to teachers and parents at the Hope Secondary School, East Bank Demerara, said that during the negotiations held between the Ministry of Education and the GTU, the government had agreed to proceed with the seven non-salary agreements, even as the two parties continued the negotiations on salary increases.

“These are things we have agreed to, I went so far where the collective bargaining speaks to the implementation of what you would have agreed to within 72 hours, and I am on record having said that.  And I said could we go ahead with what we agreed on so that the teachers could start benefitting from these measures. The union said no, they couldn’t do that and they said they wanted to wait until there was a complete resolution” Henry was quoted by the Department of Public Information (DPI) as saying.

Teachers are seeking increases of 40 per cent under a multi-year arrangement up to 2020. However, Government maintained that it just cannot afford this proposal.

Classes are scheduled to open from Monday, September but it is unclear how many teachers will be present in the classroom. Government, as stated by Education Minister Nicolette Henry, is moving full steam ahead with its contingency plan which will see striking teachers being substituted with recent Cyril Potter College Education (CPCE) graduates, trainees and retired teachers. However, some parents are of the view that their children could be shortchanged by the Government’s decision.

This position was shared with former CPCE lecturer and Mathematics teacher, Tamashwar Boodhoo who suggested Thursday that Government’s proposal could run against stipulations. “Someone has not done their homework and provide poor advice to this poor lady. Trainee teachers cannot take school registers. The law is clear you must be employed by the TSC (Teaching Service Commission) or the school board or the Ministry of Education in order to do take attendance in school,” Boodhoo noted.

He observed that a register is a legal document that can be used in the courts and that there are guidelines that govern the marking of attendance registers. He claimed that trainee teachers are “not allowed to make daily log entries in the school log book” adding that retired teachers are similarly prohibited unless they are issued contracts.

The educator noted too that credit hours are required for graduation since these students will be losing class time. He stressed that “there is nothing in the training manual” that allows for first-year trainee unsupervised practice in the classroom.

“I am disappointed that the CPCE administration agrees to put the trainees in the classroom unsupervised. It was the same administration that had trainees repeat classroom practices because of unsupervised practicum,” he pointed out.



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