– GTU President says no formal invite sentThe Labour Department of the Social Protection Ministry has approved the Education Ministry’s request for conciliation in the matter involving the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) and its intention to call a nationwide strike on August 27 over the impasse relating to salaries and benefits for teachers.The Education Ministry’s request was made on Thursday and was accepted. As such, the Labour Minister and other officials will try to resolve the issues in a meeting at the Labour Department’s Board Room today (Friday) at 14:00h between the Guyana Teachers’ Union and the Education Ministry.According to a press statement, the Education Ministry’s application was in keeping with the provisions of an extant Collective Labour Agreement. However, itLabour Minister Keith Scottis unclear whether or not GTU will present itself at this latest meeting, given that talks broke down at the two previous meetings. Contacted last Thursday evening, GTU President Mark Lyte indicated that the GTU might not be attending this afternoon’s meeting.“We are not going through any talks, because as far as we are concerned, conciliation has taken place already; the Ministry [of Labour’s] presence was there in the last two meetings,” he stressed.Additionally, Lyte remarked that from his standpoint, he wasn’t even formally invited to the meeting.“I have not received any formal invitation for any meeting, because I’m on the ground out of the area, so we have not received [any] formal invitation; so I don’t know where that is,” the union president pointed out.Guyana Times understands that, under conciliation, Minister with responsibility for Labour, Keith Scott, will attempt to act as a mediator to bring resolution to the matter.Conciliation is reportedly different from arbitration in that an arbitrator would be a neutral person appointed by the minister, rather than the minister himself trying to solve the impasse.The move to install an independent adjudicator was the expressed position of former Education Minister Dr Henry Jeffery, who was also a former Foreign Affairs Minister. When Guyana Times interviewed him last week, he recommended that the GTU request arbitration to help bring the matter to a possible conclusion. At the same time, he reasoned that the GTU should have first requested conciliation from the Labour Department.“My concern with this matter is collective bargaining. When the Government cameGTU President, Mark Lyteinto office, and before…in its manifesto, it promised collective bargaining. Collective bargaining would entail a process that would mean the union does not have to strike,” the former Government official stated last week.In the meanwhile, GTU has been mobilising teachers across various locations, including Georgetown, Bartica, Linden, Berbice and Essequibo. It was only on Thursday that this newspaper published a report wherein the GTU President indicated that Government could face a High Court injunction should it proceed with deduction against the salaries of teachers.Lyte said, too, that the union does not want a confrontation with Government, and noted that GTU has always attempted to solve the situation amicably with the current administration. GTU has rejected Government’s request for teachers to agree to a debunching payoff of $200 million for 2018/19. Lyte said the Union similarly rejected the $700 million cap that was placed on salary increases which was for 2018 only. Government also wants the clothing allowance to remain at $8000, a figure which Lyte said was given in 2011. He said, too, that for Whitley Council Leave, teachers still have to wait four years before getting their one month off, even though the GTU appealed for three years. The union is seeking 40 percent salary increases for its 7000 members.