GTU’s request for 20 per cent payout unreasonable – Min Manickchand

Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, has strongly criticised the Guyana Teachers’ Union’s (GTU) demand for a 20 per cent salary increase before teachers return to the classrooms.

Minister Manickchand labeled the plea as an unreasonable and deliberate attempt to obstruct conciliation and impede progress in resolving the ongoing issue.

Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand

During a press conference on Wednesday, the education minister highlighted that negotiations were progressing well, with both parties agreeing to end the teacher’s strike within 48 hours.

Additionally, assurances were given to avoid victimisation and maintain the status quo.

She highlighted that two outstanding issues are remaining to be discussed at another round of talks scheduled for Monday, May 20.

However, the education minister underscored that a release by the GTU containing inaccuracies and breaching confidentiality agreements compelled the ministry to respond.

She emphasised that the GTU’s actions made it evident that it had no interest in conciliation to resolve the issues outlined in the 1990 Memorandum of Agreement.

“Nowhere in the world would it be considered normal for negotiations to happen under duress. The GTU’s insistence that an across-the-board 20 per cent be paid before any talks can happen is duress,” the minister asserted.

She added, “Given the GTU’s many years as a trade union body, they must know that this is unusual, unacceptable, unreasonable and would result in a breakdown in talks. It is clear to us that they have no intention to participate in any conciliation, or anything to bring about resolution of the issues currently facing the parties.”

Teachers in Guyana initiated a second wave of strike actions on May 9, prompting discussions that commenced on May 13 and persisted through May 14.

Despite the government’s willingness to discuss teacher salary increases from 2024 onward, the GTU insists on retroactive increases from 2019-2023.

Without prior notice, the GTU has demanded a 20 per cent payout before teachers agree to resume work.

A member of the media asked the education minister a question

“It is clear then that teacher’s welfare is not a paramount consideration for Guyana Teacher’s Union. Teachers are being used as pawns in a much larger politically directed plot. This is destructive and sad,” Minister Manickchand added.

She reaffirmed the government’s dedication to advancing every facet of the education sector.

“Teachers are the backbone of this sector and are and will be treated accordingly,” the minister emphasised. 

The education minister expressed disappointment that talks, which were progressing favourably and nearing an agreement, were abruptly disrupted by the GTU’s unexpected demand.

“We were being very reasonable. We were prepared to give a lot and as soon as the union saw that this was reaching a place where this could happen, they whipped out a document and put it on the table to make sure it can’t happen,” she stated.

Despite this setback, Minister Manickchand underscored the government’s obligation to educate the nation’s children at all costs and assured that all possible solutions are under consideration.

The minister said the door remains open for talks to resume on Monday.

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