Teachers’ strike illegal and “has no basis” – Labour Minister

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Minister of Labour, Joseph Hamilton, has made it clear that the strike action by some teachers is illegal and once they do not work, they will not be paid.

The Minister was speaking on a television programme hosted by the Director of Public Affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister, Michael Gordon on Sunday.

“Any action that you call strike or protest against the Ministry of Education, it has no basis it is illegitimate and it is illegal because you have no grievance with your employer, you cannot strike against a government policy position enacted by the Ministry of Health.”
Minister Hamilton said there was no written letter to the employer indicating a grievance, which is due process.

“I’m saying to you teachers that is the reason why your president or your general secretary has not written, and will not, and cannot write the permanent secretary, indicating that there will be strike action based on these grievances they have with their employer the ministry of education,” the labour minister explained.

He made it clear that the government’s responsibility is to protect the citizens of the state, and while the initial concern was that teachers did not want to take the vaccine, there is now an indication that the teachers prefer to take the Pfizer vaccine.

Minister Hamilton said the last count showed that about 50 per cent of the teachers are already vaccinated and not with Pfizer, indicating that the General Secretary of the Guyana Teachers Union was not truthful in her pronouncements.

“If you don’t work you will not be paid… That’s the government’s position and I speak for the government; you can’t expect to be paid for not working” Minister Hamilton said.

“Because the policy of the government is, whether, teacher or whether public servant, if you fail to adhere to the COVID-19 measures, which are one, you have to be vaccinated and present your vaccination card, if not, you do a PCR test every week and submit it, if you fail to do that you will be marked absent and you will not be paid, that is the position of the government.”

The minister said the apprehension by some persons to take the COVID-19 vaccine is being used as a political tool.

“I’m saying as Minister of Labour, advised by counsel and the chief labour officer that everything about what they call a strike or protest is out of order.

“Teachers and public servants, if they were not aware before tonight, they are aware now, that the fact that they have no grievance, that is saying to the government that you are abdicating your responsibility to report to work and therefore you can’t be paid, that is where we at,” the labour minister emphasised.

The Ministry of Education, in a press release dated September 7, 2021 stated that there is no grievance or basis for strike action and urged all teachers, parents, and administrators not to “fall prey to the political machinations of Coretta McDonald and the small cabal of self-serving individuals who have hijacked the Guyana Teachers Union.”

In that release, the ministry also reminded that teachers who do not work won’t be paid.

The Ministry issued a call for the teachers to reject the “unconscionable call” of the GTU, in favour of serving the children of Guyana and advancing their education and socialisation.

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