Guyana Teacher’s Union warned of no pay due to participation in illegal strike

Tensions are high between the government of Guyana and the Guyana Teacher’s Union (GTU), as teachers in the nation have been warned that they will not be receiving their pay checks due to their participation in the nationwide industrial action that the government has termed “illegal”.

Guyana Teacher's Union warned of no pay due to participation in illegal strike. Picture Credits: Fb accounts
Guyana Teacher's Union warned of no pay due to participation in illegal strike. Picture Credits: Fb accounts

Tensions are high between the government of Guyana and the Guyana Teacher’s Union (GTU), as teachers in the nation have been warned that they will not be receiving their paychecks due to their participation in the nationwide industrial action that the government has termed “illegal”.

The Ministry of Education has issued a statement in which it has said the following, “The Ministry of Education has accepted the opinion of the Ministry of Labour that it is illegal to pay teachers who do not report for duty without a legitimate reason.”

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The industrial action entered its second day on Tuesday, after the strike was called by the Guyana Teacher’s Union (GTU) on Monday.

Going by the Ministry’s own statistical analysis, most teachers ignored the call by the GTU to participate in the “illegal” strike as they were informed that considerations would be made if they reported for duty and taught students.

They were also told by the Ministry that their dedication towards ensuring that the children of the nation are educated, as is their right, will be recognized by the government.

While the Ministry of Education refrained from publicly mentioning the exact figures, the Guyana Teacher’s Union has stated that 58.16% of the teachers in the nation, responded to the call and stayed away from schools on Monday.

Dr Mark Lyte, the President of the Guyana Teacher’s Union (GTU), stated the following, “We hold our ground that the strike is legal so let’s see.”

He added that the threat of teacher’s salaries being withheld would not affect their stance in the least bit, as the union stands resolute on its principles.

Saddam Hussain, the Chief Education Officer of the Ministry of Education, stated that disciplinary action will be taken against teachers who shirk away from performing their duties. He also said that the Teaching Service Commission or the School Boards Secretariat will take up this task and undertake the necessary steps to reprimand the teachers on strike.

The Ministry of Education went on to add that it is, “appalled at the illegal locking of schools by head teachers and the barring of students and teachers from entering some school buildings.”

The Ministry has also condemned the attempts to cyberbully authorities via incendiary voice notes, text messages, phone calls and attacks on social media platforms.

“The Ministry reiterates that the threat of the Union and its acolytes that teachers who do not turn up to strike will not be on “the benefits list” is empty. Particularly, the threat to withhold duty-free concessions cannot be realised as the Ministry is now administering that process.”

The Ministry of Education has highlighted the fact that the students of the nation are the ones who have suffered the most due to the industrial action. To help mitigate the effect this would have on them, the government has made educational content for all grades, especially for exam classes, available on the Ministry of Education’s website, as well as the Guyana Learning Channel and EDPal, the recently launched educational app.

The government is also making use of EdYou FM, which broadcasts educational programs for students via radio programmes.

“These are timetabled and schedules of topics and times are published on the individual pages.”

Secretary General of the Guyana Teacher’s Union, Coretta Mc Donald, issued a statement on Monday, stating the following, “We submitted a proposal since 2020 and this is 2024.

But what we’ve recognised they’ve been doing over the years is that they’ve been pulling from the conditions we’ve been asking for, tweaking them and my good friend (the Chief Education Officer) Saddam Hussain is putting out all kinds of things suggesting that the GTU is asking for 41 things and they’ve already been satisfied 21 or 27 things, something like that.”

Matters have been complicated by the fact that the government ignored calls for collective bargaining last year, engaging with a specific cross-section of teachers to hear their perspective instead.

Senior Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh, spoke of the matter in December last year, stating that a 6.5% increase in the salaries of public servants, teachers, members of the disciplined services and government pensioners would be applied to benefit 54,000 individuals directly. It was also said that an additional amount of GUY$7.5 billion would be provided in the form of disposable income to employees annually.