Suriname, Stabroeck News, Inglês


In a major victory for the GTU, Justice Sandil Kissoon has ruled that their strike over the absence of collective bargaining was legal and justified.

The judge today delivered a lengthy ruling this morning in which he said that where there is the legitimate right to strike, when invoked, this does not equate to “no work no pay”.
The Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) had gone to court to challenge the government’s decision to deduct pay from striking teachers and the government’s intention to cease deductions of dues from teachers’ pay in favour of the union.

Regarding government’s intent to cease deductions, justice Kissoon said he found the decision unconstitutional. Such a decision is grounded in bad faith and has to be struck down, he said.

In his ruling the judge said that Chief Education Officer (CEO) Saddam Hussain was not frank with the court and his testimony could not be relied upon. He said that the CEO was asked to produce evidence to support allegations made by the state but none was provided.

The judge also criticised the Chief Labour Officer (CLO). He said that the failure by the CLO to intervene contributed to strike action.
The judge added that the consensus appears to have been that teachers must accept the imposition of wage increases. 

The judge’s decision will have ramifications for collective bargaining across the entire public service but it is likely that the government will appeal.

On March 4th, 2024 court-ordered mediation succeeded in bringing a four-week-old teachers’ strike to an end. Talks then ensued between the union and the Ministry of Education but these later collapsed.  The judge’s ruling today will point the way ahead for the union and government on wages and other matters.

The GTU’s industrial action commenced on February 5th and was initially slated to last for ten days, but actions by the government led to its continuation for over a month.  There was substantial support for it all across the country particularly in Region Two, a development which seemed to have surprised the government. Teachers also went on strike across Berbice.

Just before the commencement of the strike, GTU General Secretary Coretta McDonald had expressed frustration with the government’s handling of negotiations.

Before the commencement of the strike, as it began, and throughout its progression, it was deemed political and illegal by members of the government including the Ministry of Education (MoE), the Ministry of Labour (MoL), and Vice President (VP) Bharrat Jagdeo. As time progressed, the union in turn maintained that the strike was lawful as they had exhausted all avenues for wage talks with the government since 2020.

According to the union, a proposal that they submitted in 2020, spanning from 2020 to 2023, did not receive a response from the government. Additionally, attempts to request conciliation and arbitration with the MoL were unsuccessful.

Despite the union’s claims, correspondence from the Chief Labour Officer (CLO) Dhaneshwar Deonarine to the GTU showed him pointing out that the grievance procedure had not been exhausted, as per the agreement between the union and the MoE. Before this correspondence had been sent out, the GTU had written to the CLO seeking arbitration as financial matters were not addressed by the MoE, and an arbitrator mutually agreed upon by both parties was requested to commence the process.

However, no response was received from the CLO regarding the request for arbitration and the union resorted to declaring full-fledged industrial action due to the government’s failure to address their concerns, including wage increases and non-salary benefits, lack of response from the CLO, and unresolved matters impacting the stability of the education system. In its correspondence to the government to inform them of the planned strike action, the GTU had requested an urgent meeting with the MoE to discuss these matters and avoid disruption in the educational system.

After the letter on the planned industrial action was sent out, the CLO finally reached out to the GTU, urging that they refrain from taking industrial action, emphasizing the importance of following the grievance procedure in good faith for industrial relations practice. Deonarine further advised against breaching or violating the Memorandum of Agreement between the GTU and the Ministry.


One day after the strike began, the MoE made its first move against teachers by announcing its plan to discontinue the deduction of union dues on behalf of teachers. In a press release issued by the ministry on February 6, the MoE explained that the decision to cease deductions was made per a ruling by Chief Justice Ian Chang in the case of Guyana Public Service Union v Nanda Gopaul.

The release cited the ministry as labeling the industrial action unlawful, racist, and divisive. Further, it said that the majority of the union’s requests were agreed upon by the MoE, and the ministry implemented several initiatives to benefit teachers nationwide.

The ministry then took things a step further, on February 12, vowing to cut the salaries of striking teachers. In response to this, the GTU threatened and made good on its threat to take the government to court over the MoE’s actions.

After the union’s statement of claim against the state was filed on February 14, the government, through Attorney General (AG) Anil Nandlall SC and its other legal representatives, made an application for a 14-day grace period to come up with a response. This was granted and the matter is set to be heard on March 20. Justice Kissoon, who granted the extension, also ruled that the status quo be maintained, thereby stalling the deduction of strike days from teachers’ salaries and maintaining the deduction of union dues, pending the outcome of the matter.  It was these orders that eventually led to the Judge asking why there were no talks between the two sides and eventually ordering mediation.

On February 27, the CEO Hussain was summoned before Justice Kissoon after being found in contempt of court for issuing a circular which stated that teachers’ salaries will still be subject to deductions and that the court’s ruling was temporary. Hussain apologised to the judge, who, after accepting the apology, suggested that a mediation meeting be held in court between the two parties.

The GTU readily agreed to the meeting taking place the following day, but Nandlall asked the court for 24 hours to confer with his superiors before making a decision. The following day, despite Nandlall’s disagreement with mediation, Justice Kissoon ordered that the meeting be held under the mediation of Senior Counsel Edward Luckhoo and Robin Stoby.







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