Feb 20, 2016 News
Professor Jacob Opadeyi’s tenure at the University of Guyana (UG) has come to an end; he leaves behind
a legacy laced with bitter-sweet achievements.
An improved financial situation can easily be categorised as sweet but his relationship with the University of Guyana Workers Unions – the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) and the University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU) – could comfortably be labelled bitter.
So controversial was the relationship between the former Vice Chancellor and the Unions that long before the end of his tenure they wished to see him go and even moved a No Confidence motion against him.
But according to Professor Opadeyi, who recently entertained questions about his relationship with the Unions, the whole state of affairs was in fact “a chicken and egg situation.” He in a detailed explanation conceded that the Unions were in fact incensed, and rightly so, because the salary afforded staffers are “very, very poor.”
He however related that fulfilling the 60 per cent across the board increase demanded by the Unions simply was not feasible. “To do this we had to look at the ability of the Government to pay because if you say across the board it meant drivers, cleaners, everybody had to get 60 per cent.
In an environment like that, once non-teaching staff get that then the whole country will come for 60 per cent and I was using my common sense to appeal to them…I didn’t know that sometimes common sense don’t work,” Professor Opadeyi considered.
The Unions had on a number of occasions retaliated against his appeal with full blown strike action.
Professor Opadeyi’s stint at the University came to an end on Monday. But according to him, “I think that we are back at the drawing board and trying to negotiate…there is need to increase the salary, there is need to improve the facilities of the University but we have seen some minimal improvements.”
It is, however, the conviction of Professor Opadeyi that the real issue that has been facing the University is “how do you finance the University?” While the University usually benefits from a subvention from Government, Professor Opadeyi noted that this has proven to be insufficient.
In his attempt to put the financing situation into context, he noted that “if a road (on campus) gets damaged because of wear and tear or a streetlight is not working, we have to use the fixed subvention to fix that. I wish that the Ministry (Infrastructure) could fix our roads, take care of our streetlights…we pay commercial rates to GPL (Guyana Power and Light Inc.) and our GPL bill is enough to kill anybody.
“We have asked for special preference and they have said no…I said we are not a commercial entity…”
But Professor Opadeyi asserted that in order to ensure that security is maintained at the University campuses, electricity is an important factor. “We have light bills and security bills, telephone bills (too), and these are statutory payments that must be paid and you cannot be financing that with tuition fee although these bills go up all the time,” informed the Nigerian-born Professor.
As such he noted that the onus will be on the administrators of the University to sit down with Government and discuss the possibility of Government taking responsibility for the statutory bills.
“It is a question of sitting down with the Government and saying ok can you take care of all those bills so that we can focus on teaching materials, laboratory materials and, things that are directly related to what we are doing…” theorised Professor Opadeyi.
Another issue of concern that Professor Opadeyi is hoping will be regularised is what he described as the “contentious work load issue.” In fact he disclosed that this is one of the issues behind the strike actions initiated by the Unions and is still on the table for discussion.
“The work load policy is at the heart of our efficiency but when you talk about value for money and when you look at our teaching load it is so small, and I am talking from my over 28 years of experience at other universities.
“If that is related to the salary that is low then there is need for discussion…if salaries must be increased the workload must also be increased,” proposed Professor Opadeyi. This is in light of his observation that there have been lecturers at UG who teach less than eight hours per week but “people would tell you that they are doing other things.”
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