– veteran union official recommends Govt move on to arbitrationBy Jarryl BryanAfter mounting pressure and criticism from union officials and teachers, Junior Social Protection Minister Keith Scott has issued an apology for calling striking teachers “selfish and uncaring.”In a release originating from the Ministry of the Presidency, Scott was quoted expressing regret for the statements.Junior Social Protection Minister Keith Scott“I would like to offer my sincerest apologies to the teachers of Guyana. I regret making such an inflammatory and hurtful statement. I have always and will always hold the teachers of our nation in the highest regard” Scott was quoted as saying.“It was never my intention to be disrespectful of, or to downplay the legitimate industrial actions taken by the Guyana Teachers’ Union [GTU] on behalf of its membership and teachers generally,” he continued.Scott had referred to the striking teachers in this manner while addressing bursary awardees last week. He reportedly also told the students that teachers who cared would show up for work on Monday.His statement drew much condemnation from the GTU, which was already lukewarm about the Labour Department acting as a mediator in the strike. In an interview on Tuesday, President of the Guyana Trade Union Congress (GTUC), Lincoln Lewis, recommended that the process be moved to arbitration.“Scott is not an arbiter. His department does conciliation. And conciliating, it’s not them that makes the decision. Conciliator works with the parties to bring them closer together to arrive at a decision on their own. They have to arrive at a decision. The arbitrator listens to the evidence and makes the decision.”“So what you have here is a situation where the union has been calling for arbitration. Arbitration, in this circumstance, I think is important to be considered, because the conciliator is a part of the Government and represents the government interest,” Lewis stated.CriticismsThe teachers who took umbrage to the remarks made by Scott called publicly on Monday for him to apologise. The remarks also triggered a response from an infuriated GTU, which also demanded an apology for his choice of words.The Union also highlighted that his statement confirmed their conviction that the Labour Department’s position on teachers’ salary increases is biased.Calls for an apology on the part of the Minister were also echoed from the Federation of Independent Trade Unions in Guyana (FITUG) and the GTUC.Veteran Trade Unionist Lincoln Lewis“This most astonishing statement by the Minister, who incidentally is responsible for the Department of Labour, is a clear demonstration of the Administration’s concern for the workers plight and troubles that have beset them in the era of the ‘Good Life’ coalition. The statement by the Minister, in our view, further unmasks the APNU/AFC Government and it reveals its true colours,” FITUG stated on Monday.They also made an appeal for President David Granger to give “serious consideration and profound thought” as to whether Scott is suited to serve as the political head of the Labour Department.Meanwhile, the GTUC said this is not the first time such utterances were made by the Minister and further sought to ask the perceptible question as to whether this is also a representation of the Government’s position on the matter.Educators from all corners of the country are currently protesting for ‘a liveable wage’ and they were seen protesting in front of schools, ministries and education departments on the first day of the academic year.