GUYANA | Why the Trades Union Congress joined the Teachers Union in its Court Battle

GUYANA | Why the Trades Union Congress joined the Teachers Union in its Court Battle

GEORGETOWN,  Guyana, March 20, 2024 - The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) has a moral and legal obligation to stand by the nation’s public school teachers and all society. 

The refusal by the Bharrat Jagdeo/Irfaan Ali regime to respect the decision, arising from the court-ordered mediation by Justice Sandil Kissoon, makes the GTUC’s stance stronger.

We are a nation of laws and the right of the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) to engage in collective bargaining is enshrined in the Constitution and Laws of Guyana, which makes it sacrosanct.

The regime’s decision last Tuesday to walk away from negotiating the 2019-2023 Proposal on Wages/Salaries and Working Conditions submitted in August 2020, which subsequently led to the strike in 2024, demonstrated the absence of intent to respect the rule of law. 

The court, having used its authority to redirect the parties to the bargaining table, is now being undermined by a regime that thrives on lawlessness.

The court is not merely a third and equal branch of government; it is a vital pillar of society because it adjudicates the nation’s law and dispenses justice. 

When the judiciary upholds these sacred principles without fear, favour or ill will the court furthers the real interest of all. This interest the regime has moved to undermine.

The act of disregarding the court, and other decisions binding on the Government and other parties such as the 1999 Arbitration Award to Guyana Public Service Union, demonstrates lawlessness and bad faith, which are unacceptable. 

The People’s Progressive Party Government’s non-compliance is not only evident in arbitration and court’s award, but in nearly every decision arrived at with the trade unions.

The refusal of the Ministry of Labour, which is supposed to be acting independent of the employer to conciliate and establish arbitration tribunal for grievances between the Guyana Bauxite & General Workers Union (GB&GWU) and Bauxite Company Guyana Inc (BCGI) are too issues of concern.

The above reasons, along with the regime’s arbitrary decision to terminate the check off for union dues, while constructively putting in place a mechanism forcing teachers to take strike to announce there will be a loss of pay are manifestations of acts that contravene modern industrial relations principles and practices.

The GTUC, while not vested with the authority to negotiate collective labour agreements, has among its objectives the responsibility to pursue legal, political and economic practices that impact the wellbeing of organised and unorganised labour. 

The GTU is an affiliate of the GTUC and in times of need the federation will stand by its affiliates. It is a moral and legal responsibility we take seriously and shall not shirk from.

Behind this backdrop the GTUC is standing alongside the GTU as they take their fight to the court. The hearing is scheduled to begin Wednesday 20th March. 

This opportunity is taken to publicly expressed gratitude to Mr. Roysdale Forde S.C, M.P for representing yours truly on behalf of the GTUC.

Workers/Citizens of Guyana must remain vigilant. The Jagdeo/Ali regime’s open contempt for the rule of law and rights of citizens poses clear and present danger to nurturing a democratic society. Labour will not stand for it. 

We encourage others to be similarly intolerant. Lawlessness and violation disrupt society and hinders the desire of the ordinary man and woman, across race, class and other diversity, to live in peace and harmony.

This nation bears daily witness to the exclusion of the political opposition in representing their constituents even though the political objective of this society mandates forging an inclusionary democracy, explicitly outlined in Article 13 of the Constitution of Guyana. 

Similarly, the Jagdeo/Ali regime seeks to trample the rights of labour to collective bargaining as outlined in Article 147 and participate in national decision-making that impacts the workers’ well-being as outlined in Article 149C of the Constitution of Guyana.

Guyana must not sit back and allow the Court’s decision of 4th March that both Government and Teachers signed to be trampled on today. 

The court’s ruling must be respected as much as the rights of workers. The GTUC is committed to going the distance, using all legitimate means at its disposal to protect, defend and advance the rights of workers, organised or not, past, present and potential.

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