GTU issues ultimatum to gov’t, threatens to resume strike

were abandoned on Tuesday when the Ministry of Education informed the union’s negotiating team that there was no fiscal space to cater for increases for the period 2019 -2024 and instead sought proposals for 2024.

Lyte said on Thursday that the union will make no such proposal and instead urged the government to return to the negotiating table with a proposal for 2019 – 2023 or there will be a resumption of the strike.

“I am issuing a verbal ultimatum that within the next few hours, if the government does not indicate its willingness to come to the table…to discuss 2019 – 2023 or to negotiate around that period… there will be a resumption of massive industrial action,” Lyte said in a broadcast from the Facebook page of the GTU.

But the threat comes while the union has also returned to the High Court for its intervention in the matter.

Lyte, moments before issuing the ultimate, chanted repeatedly: “let the court decide.”

Those were similar words offered by Vice President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo when asked to comment on the matter on earlier during a press conference at the Office of the President.

“We are at a stalemate, let the court decide.

“We have moved to the court because we believe that the mediation agreement has been breached.

“We are available for continued talks if the MOE and government is serious out 2019 -2023,” Lyte said, indicating a willingness to compromise but noted that the compromise will not be at the expense of the mandate given to the union by teachers.

Lytre also claimed that not only was the mediation agreement breached but the education ministry was going back on the minutes of last Thursday’s meeting where it was agreed that salary increases for the 2019 – 2023 period would be discussed.

Education Minister Priya Manickchand has since said that while that was agreed, it was only to be a discussion and not for the ministry or the government to greenlight the union’s proposal.

Attorney General, Anil Nandlall also weighed in on the issue, saying that the time to discuss salary increases for 2019 – 2023 has passed and the new budgeting cycle allows for 2024 negotiations.

Jagdeo said it is his belief that political motives are fueling the hostility the union presents.

He explained on Thursday that based on reports, it doesn’t seem like the union is interested in a reasonable resolution to the issues on the table which also include the two percent difference in salary for 2017 and 2018, a clothing allowance increase, and paying Whitley Council every three years.

And while the government will wait for the union’s promise to re-engage the court, Jagdeo said the government is not naïve to think that the political opposition doesn’t have a hand in the union’s actions.

Jagdeo again noted that he felt it was unreasonable to ask for increases as high as 25 per cent for the years during the COVID-19 pandemic when schools were closed.

But Lyte argued that it amounted to an insult to every teacher who risked their lives to teach during the period. He claimed that teachers made spaces in their homes and invested in new gadgets and updated their internet bandwidth from personal funds to ensure that students remained engaged.

This is evident in the increased and sustained pass rates at the National Grade Six Assessment in 2020 and 2021, he argued.