Labour Minister addresses GTU’s “ISOLATION DAY”

Minister of Labour, Joseph Hamilton MP

Minister of Labour, Joseph Hamilton, MP., on Sunday, addressed the Guyana Teachers Union’s (GTU) call for an “ISOLATION DAY” set to occur on Monday, January 1o, 2022.

A strike disguised as an “ISOLATION DAY” will see classrooms being abandoned as virtual and face-to-face learning will cease.

This course of action, stated by a GTU letter, is due to the surge in COVID-19 cases and the alarming reports of teachers, students and support staff testing positive for the deadly virus.

Despite this act of concern by the union, before an industrial action including a strike [a collective refusal by employees to work under the conditions required by employer] is taken, a collective agreement between the GTU and the Ministry of Education is required.

Minister Hamilton said, “teachers in Guyana, ought to be properly advised that heeding the call of the GTU to participate in the “Isolation Day” may be considered as an unauthorised absence from work, abandonment of their students and a gross dereliction of their duties,” as no formal discussion was done between GTU and the Education Ministry.

Role of the Ministry of Labour

The Labour Ministry plays an integral role in enforcing the Labour Act, (98:01) which gives the Minister the authority to settle differences between an employer and employees.

The Minister is empowered to inquire into the cause(s) and circumstances of the difference; take such steps as appear to be expedient to promote a settlement of the difference; and with the consent of both parties, refer the matter for settlement to an arbitration panel.

Section 4 (1) (c) provides that the matter may also be referred to arbitration without the consent of the parties if the Minister notifies the parties that continuance of the difference is likely to be gravely injurious to national interest.

Teachers partaking in a strike without legality or framework of a strike are subjected to no pay for however long their post is abandoned.

“In this regard, the Ministry of Education will be under no lawful obligation to pay persons who are absent and abandon their posts on Monday 10th January 2022,” said Minister Hamilton.

It is common labour relations practice that a period of notice be given to the employer before any industrial action is taken.