– as salary negotiations collapse
“The University Administration and the Council regard the workers of this University with contempt and recent events have proven that the Vice Chancellor cannot be trusted, he has little integrity, and therefore his word has no value,” were detailed in a fiercely worded statement issued by the Workers’ Unions of the University of Guyana.
And according to the statement, the first step that the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) has taken to address this grave assault is to immediately withdraw all UGSSA Representatives from all University Boards and Committees. “We must be prepared to take other drastic steps including shutting the University down if necessary,” added the statement which called upon UG staffers to assemble for an emergency meeting in the Small Lecture Theatre of the University of Guyana (UG) Turkeyen campus on Monday at 12:30 pm. “Come to the meeting…let us end the ‘eye pass’; enough is enough.”
The UGSSA, together with the University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU), is calling on Academic Staff to be ready to teach four courses per semester in light of the fact that labour relations has hit “rock bottom” at UG. This has in fact been a situation that has been brewing for some time now.
Pointed out in the statement was the fact that during the past week negotiations collapsed between the UG Administration and the UGSSA and the UGWU on salary and non-salary benefits. Further the Unions have highlighted that there has moves to impose a workload allocation policy without any attempt to get the views of the academic community, the very people expected to work under the proposed policy.
Collapse of salary negotiations
It was pointed out that during a recent UG Council meeting, the unions and the administration had reached a point in the negotiations where the demands of the unions were being quantified in monetary terms. And it was noted that the unions participated in this process in good faith based on a request by the administration.
Moreover, a meeting was scheduled for Thursday, for the purpose of reviewing the submissions of the unions and for the administration to indicate its initial positions on key demands.
But earlier in the week, however, the unions in the statement indicated that there were hostile efforts, on the part of the UG Council, to derail the process by attacking the bona fides of the UGSSA, in particular its recognition and legal certification.
“We quickly responded to these manoeuvres by dispatching a letter to the VC and the entire UG Council making three points: (i) The UGSSA has long been recognized by the UG Administration as the legitimate representative of the academic staff.
“Actions by the Administration, such as previously meeting, negotiating and signing agreements with the UGSSA, testify to this recognition. For the UGSSA to be arbitrarily “derecognized” would be a show of bad faith and even malevolence by the Administration and Council. (ii) The attempt by the UGSSA in 2012 to certify the union under the Trades Union Recognition Act was directly (perhaps deliberately) derailed by the Administration through its ‘error’ in submitting the incorrect documents to the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board.
“Following protest from the Union, the Administration promised at a negotiation meeting to write the Board, admit fault and send in the correct data. This was never done.
(iii) This cycle of wage negotiations, which started in 2012, had stretched for too long and the unions and workers were coming to the end of their patience.”
And the Unions are convinced that reason and reasonableness are certainly not the hallmarks of the UG Council. This was in light of the fact, according to the statement, that the Council instructed the administration to cancel further negotiations with the UGSSA until further notice. Thursday’s meeting of the negotiating teams was therefore cancelled.
Imposition of workload policy for academic staff
It was outlined in the statement, too, that since the arrival of the new Vice Chancellor, Professor Jacob Opadeyi, “we have witnessed several instances of actual and attempted imposition of heavier teaching loads on academic staff, all in a haste to cut costs regardless of the negative impacts on the quality of education the university offers.”
At a Council meeting on Thursday, it was disclosed that the VC tabled a paper titled ‘Academic Workload Policy’ that sets out new guidelines on matters such as teaching load of lecturers, weekly and yearly working hours, and staff leave.
The Unions have been infuriated by the fact that the policy document was taken straight to the Council despite assurances last year by the VC that it would first benefit from the input of the Academic community. “Not only did the unions write the VC before the Council meeting to strongly advise the withdrawal of the document, but the concern was also expressed at Tuesday’s Academic Board meeting that the VC seemed intent to deliver to staff a fait accompli on workloads,” added the statement.
While at Academic Board reports are that the VC noted that the document was going to Council for input but at the Council Meeting he requested adoption of the document as University Workload Policy.
Based on the last collective agreement signed between the University and the UGSSA, academic staff contracts with the University “…Changes in regulations governing conditions of service are made only after consultation with the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association, the recommendation of the Finance and General Purposes Committee and the approval of the Council”
Moreover, it is the categorical view of the Unions that since there was no consultation, the University cannot legally unilaterally change the conditions of service. But according to the statement, “the VC and the Council are hell bent to impose this new policy on staff in a dictatorial manner reminiscent of Guyana’s colonial masters.
Whatever merits the policy may have, we have expressed our strong misgivings over the manner of its deliver. We must continue to insist on its withdrawal for our review and input.”
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