Ministry of Social Protection’s response to negative comments about the appointment of the Chairman of the Arbitration Tribunal

The Ministry of Social Protection is concerned with some of the inaccuracies, misconceptions and deliberate attempts to distort the facts pertaining to the conclusion of the process to establish the Arbitration Tribunal to determine the current Teachers’ Salaries issues.

Following a meeting yesterday with the Parties under the Chairmanship of this Ministry to identify their individual nominee, a number of misleading statements and submissions which seems to be founded on emotions rather than facts appeared in the printed Media.

The Ministry of Social Protection wishes to point out that it has no intention of engaging in a debate or verbal encounter over the matter but would like to encourage anyone and everyone who are desirous of expressing an intelligent opinion on the matter to first study the relevant Collective Labour Agreement (CLA) subsisting between the Parties.

It would be useful also to consult the Labour Act, Chapter 98:01 for an understanding of the role of the Minister responsible for Labour and that of the Chief Labour Officer as well as the Constitution of our Co-operative Republic, for general knowledge.

For much more than academic reasons, interested Parties and Stakeholders should study clauses 3 (a) and 3 (b) of the relevant CLA which is central to the issues under focus. In reference to the constitution of an Arbitration Panel within the parameters of a General Question, it reads as follows:

“the Arbitration Panel shall comprise one member nominated by the Union one member nominated by the Ministry and a Chairman mutually agreed upon by both Parties. The Ministry of Labour shall nominate the Chairman in the event that the parties fail to reach agreement”.

From this clause it is clear that since the Parties had failed to agree on a Chairman it was the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour in the interest of industrial stability to nominate a Chairman.

Therefore, the rejection of the Ministry’s nominee for the Chairmanship could only be interpreted as an act of bad faith by the Party so doing.

It is respectfully submitted for emphasis that once the Parties did not mutually agree to a Chairman neither of them had any further say in the matter.

Never-the-less in the spirit of cordiality the Ministry of Social Protection upon request shared the Curriculum Vitae of the identified Chairman with the Union. An objective examination of that Curriculum Vitae will reveal that he is eminently qualified and experienced to professionally and neutrally execute the task on hand.

The fact, that the Chairman in the person of Professor Leyland Lucas does not reside in Guyana, his neutrality, professionalism and objectivity can be assured.

In the circumstances Social Protection urges all Stakeholders to allow themselves to be properly guided in their utterances and contemplated action. In that regard Clause 3 (b) of the aforementioned Collective Labour Agreement (CLA) is quite instructive.

It reads in part as follows:

“During the consideration of the matter in dispute under the grievance procedure there shall be no strike, stoppage of work, or any other interference with the Ministry’s operations by the Union …”.

This Collective Labour Agreement (CLA) with which the Parties are expected to comply is a Legally Binding and Enforceable instrument which ought to be respected within the realms of decency and good order.

It is the Union which demanded that the issue be referred to a Tribunal and any attempt to walk away from the process at this stage or to disrupt the smooth functioning of the Arbitration machinery must be discouraged.

After all, the margin for disrespect for established procedures is an absolute zero.

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