Arbitration panel closer

The MoE representatives (on the left) and GTU representatives (on the right) in the Department of Labour Boardroom yesterday (Delano Williams photo)

…Gov’t, GTU report big progress in formulating terms of reference

THE Guyana Teachers’ Union and Ministry of Education (MoE) are scheduled to meet again this Friday to further work out the terms of reference of the arbitration panel, after making much headway at their first meeting held on Tuesday.

GTU executives were once again all smiles as they exited a meeting, which was held at the Department of Labour on Brickdam, Georgetown. According to GTU President, Mark Lyte, the meeting was very productive as the two sides were able to agree on all but two areas in the terms of reference.

“I think this afternoon we made significant progress in getting closer to agreeing on the terms of reference. We have a few outstanding areas that we have to do some consultation on and we’re meeting next Friday to try and tie up the terms of reference. Both the union and the Ministry prepared terms of reference we were able to agree on all except two,” commented Lyte.

“There are some terms that we believe it’s a bit loose and we need to have if further tightened in order for the tribunal to have a tight run in terms of what they will be looking at. The Union is saying that we have to look at the history of what obtained prior to this year’s multiyear agreement. That’s a little loose area and also indicating what evidence should [be] included.”

Lyte said more on the terms of reference would be revealed next Friday. The terms of reference will dictate how the panel will go about coming to a resolution in the GTU/MoE dispute over salary increases and other issues. The panel is also expected to look into the instituting of a multi-year agreement to span 2016 – 2020. It was the GTU that had demanded that the dispute go to arbitration, after teachers had gone on strike lasting for almost two weeks.

The persons to comprise the three person panel that would overlook the arbitration were not yet tabled. The nominees are expected to be announced, and final selection decided, at Friday’s meeting. For the panel, the GTU and MoE would have to jointly agree on a chairman, while they each appoint a representative.

Though they were not ready to disclose any names, Lyte shared that the GTU already has a few persons in mind. At a press conference held last week, Lyte had indicated that if necessary the GTU would be looking to its Caribbean affiliates to identify prospective nominations.

“We have a pool of persons that we’re looking at, we don’t know what the ministry has but the union has a pool both for our nominee as well as for the chairmanship. So far we’re looking locally. What I said last time is, if we have to look for a neutral and unbiased person the union would have the capacity to go outside if needs be,” Lyte said. Once the persons have been empanelled, he is hopeful that they would come to a conclusion within a few weeks. At last week’s press conference, Lyte said it is hoped that it would take the panel approximately two months. Coming out of yesterday’s meeting, he said the agreed timeline is even shorter than that.

“Once we conclude the terms of reference, the union had indicated a specific timeline and we will work with a shorter timeline than that. The timeline that we have agreed on so far is feasible and the union is happy that we can work in that direction,” Lyte said. Chief Education Officer, Marcel Hutson, was tight lipped on the subject of nominees for the MoE. He added that he could not comment, since deliberations are still in progress.