Guyana government warns teachers of unpaid salaries amid nationwide strike

February 6, 2024  -The Guyana government has issued a stern warning to teachers participating in a nationwide industrial action, now in its second day, stating that they will not receive payment for their involvement in what has been deemed an “illegal strike.”

The Ministry of Education has officially endorsed the Ministry of Labour’s position that teachers who fail to report for duty without a legitimate reason are not eligible for payment.

A statement from the Ministry of Education cited statistical analysis indicating that a substantial number of teachers ignored the call by the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) to join the “illegal” strike on Monday.

In response, the ministry pledged recognition for those teachers who reported for duty and continued delivering lessons, highlighting their dedication to providing children with the education.

Strike participation data

Despite declining to provide specific figures, the Ministry of Education noted that a significant percentage of educators had refrained from participating in the strike on its first day, with the GTU reporting that at least 58.16 per cent of teachers abstained from attending schools.

Union president’s response

GTU president Dr. Mark Lyte dismissed the government’s threat to withhold salaries, asserting the strike’s legality and urging authorities to reconsider their position.

However, Chief Education Officer of the Ministry of Education, Saddam Hussain, announced that teachers who locked up schools might face disciplinary action recommended by either the Teaching Service Commission or the School Boards Secretariat.

Concerns and condemnation

The Ministry of Education expressed dismay over the illegal locking of schools by head teachers and the barring of students and teachers from entering some school buildings.

The ministry also condemned threats made against teachers through various means, including voice notes, text messages, phone calls, and cyberbullying.

Empty threats and educational alternatives

The Ministry reiterated its stance that the union’s threat to exclude striking teachers from the “benefits list” held no weight.

Particularly, it argued that the threat to withhold duty-free concessions could not be realized, as the Ministry was now overseeing that process.

Meanwhile, the Ministry announced alternative educational platforms to engage students affected by the industrial action.

Educational content, including schedules and topics, is readily available through the Ministry of Education’s website, the Guyana Learning Channel, its newly launched app, EDPal, as well as on EdYou FM radio.

Union’s long-standing demands

GTU Secretary General Coretta McDonald expressed frustration, highlighting the union’s proposal submitted since 2020 and the government’s alleged delay in addressing their demands.

The government, on the other hand, contended that it had already addressed a significant portion of the union’s requests, although specifics were not provided.

Recent salary increase announcement

Last December, Senior Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh announced a 6.5 per cent across-the-board salary increase, benefiting over 54,000 public servants, including teachers, members of the disciplined services, and government pensioners.

This decision is expected to inject an additional GUY$7.5 billion in disposable income annually into the hands of these employees.

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