Junior Social Protection Minister Keith Scott has declared that striking teachers are “selfish and uncaring.”
Speaking at the Bursary Awards Ceremony of the Guyana Public Service Co-operative Credit Union (GPSCCU) on Friday, Scott told the 40 awardees that those teachers who care will be present in the classroom on Monday.
Questioned by Sunday Stabroek as to whether the comment was appropriate given his position as the legally mandated mediator between the teachers’ union and the Education Ministry, Scott doubled down and declared that as a Guyanese citizen and politician, he had the duty to assure the mostly 11-year-old students that government was doing its best for them.
“We do not sacrifice children. Children must never be used as pawns. Our responsibility must be to put children first, we can’t discard our care of them because we want a lil money,” he said of the teachers, who began striking last week and are expected to continue the industrial action when the new school term begins tomorrow.
The Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) has previously accused the Ministry of Social Protection (MoSP) and the Department of Labour, which Scott heads, of partisan behavior during the process of its negotiations with the Ministry of Education.
According to the union, the Department of Labour has compromised its position by being at two meetings held for negotiations that ended in an impasse. Social Protection Minister Amna Ally, Scott and Chief Labour Officer Charles Ogle have all faced the GTU from the government side of the table but Scott is saying that they are still the only fit party to facilitate conciliation. He further added that by responding to two invitations issued by the MoSP, the union has negated its own objections.
“We admit that we ought not to have been there, however, the fact that the union was present at two subsequent meetings—to two conciliation—shows that there is no issue. Their presence proves it is not an obstacle,” he stressed, while adding that MoSP has a legal responsibility to facilitate conciliation.
“No one can be brought in who can do better than us. We are the experts,” Scott proclaimed.
He also found no issue with the fact that after more than two years of negotiation President David Granger has declared that his government is not negotiating a multi-year agreement.
Union President Mark Lyte has said the announcement is shocking and disappointing, but according to Scott that is the President’s prerogative.
He attempted to claim that there is no history of multi-year negotiations but when challenged and reminded that for the decades GTU has signed multi-year agreements, Scott said the present government did not have to sign any.
“If the president announces that he wants us to deal with a particular year, that’s his prerogative. Not because another government brought something on board means we have to follow it,” Scott stressed.
He would not say whether it was disingenuous of government to have the union work for years on one agreement only to state it will not be addressing same.