Even as they threaten to ‘shutdown’ the University of Guyana if Vice Chancellor (VC), Professor Opadeyi, fails to rethink his plans to downsize programmes at the institution, the university unions are also prepared to stage industrial action to retaliate the non-holding of negotiation meetings.
At a recent press conference, Vice President of the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA), Dr Mellissa Ifill, categorically noted that “we are serving notice that unless the negotiating team is convened almost immediately the staff will take the necessary action.”
According to her on May 2, last, the unions, UGSSA together with the University of Guyana Workers (UGWU), wrote to the Vice Chancellor requesting an urgent meeting of the negotiating team and the unions but have, to date, received no response.
But according to Professor Opadeyi in a brief solicited comment yesterday, he has not received any such request. In fact he reluctantly informed that such requests are not even brought to his attention but rather are sent to the Personnel Manager.
Negotiations between the unions and a team from the University started some two years ago for improved salaries and working conditions but were marred by a number of arising issues.
Dr Ifill disclosed during the recent press conference that “the University had experienced tremendous turmoil, particularly at the Government’s level, where we had no Council for a period.”
The functioning of the negotiating team is dependent on the installation of the Council since its members are required to comprise the negotiating team. Because of a change in the Council there was need for new members to be appointed to the negotiating team; a situation that was compounded by the appointment of the Vice Chancellor last year, according to Dr Ifill. However, she noted that “we gave him enough and sufficient time to become au fait with all of the issues and we had one meeting of the negotiating team with this new VC.”
The meeting, since the appointment of Professor Opadeyi, was held in March last and, Dr Ifill disclosed that a proposal was made then that a meeting be held at least once per month. That meeting in March was however dubbed the “first and the last” by the UGSSA Vice President.
But according to her, the unions are prepared to take another route to retaliate the evident neglect that currently obtains. “We have been attempting to negotiate with the University for improved salaries and working conditions since January of 2012 and we have exercised enormous patience. We have been extremely understanding of the circumstances within which this University finds itself…” said Dr Ifill, who insisted that “we are no longer prepared to do so.” Moreover, she disclosed that “we are serving notice that we will take whatever steps are necessary once a meeting isn’t convened urgently and progress isn’t made during that meeting and subsequent meetings; we will take the necessary industrial action on the campus,” Dr Ifill categorically asserted.
At the same time the unions are advocating for a halt in the hiring of senior administrative staff who, according to UGSSA President, Dr Pat Francis, “are coming in at very high prices…”
According to her, “most of them are paid more than $500,000 per month. I cannot see what value they will add that we, 600 and something academic and non-academic staff, cannot do.” She insisted that such a move can only be seen as counterproductive since “you cannot make the system more top heavy and expect production. Which company runs like that? None! We the academic staff members are demanding that we be paid better,” insisted a passionate Dr Francis.
“While we are eking out a living they are bringing on people to pay them fat salaries. Where are we going with that and we are cash-strapped?” questioned the UGSSA President even as she pointed out that “lots of people haven’t been paid, part time haven’t been paid. How are you bringing on more people at the higher level? We are totally against it, it don’t make sense!”
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