The contract of serving Vice Chancellor of the University of Guyana [UG], Professor Ivelaw Griffith, is slated to expire within months and representatives of the institution’s workers unions are paying especially close attention.
In fact, the unions have already embraced the notion that if the Vice Chancellor does not wish to have his contract renewed, the search process for a new Vice Chancellor should be kicked into motion by the university’s Council.
This was underscored in a letter the unions – the University of Guyana Workers Union [UGWU] and the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association [UGSSA] – jointly wrote to the university’s Council in January of this year.
In the joint letter, too, seen by this publication, the unions stated, “We wish to ask Council how it is proceeding with its evaluation of the current Vice Chancellor as Council is aware, his current contract ends in June 2019.”
According to the unions, at the institution’s Annual Business meeting last November, the outgoing Chancellor [Professor Nigel Harris] indicated that given a prevailing controversy surrounding the Vice Chancellor’s bonus and the absence of objective criteria for assessing his performance, that he should be subjected to a ‘360 degree’ evaluation as part of the contract renewal process.
The unions have, moreover, questioned the possibility of ‘360 degree’ evaluable being done for other senior UG officials. “It may also be helpful to consider whether this 360 degree process should not be applied to other members of the senior administration,” the unions suggested.
But the administration has refused to provide to the unions contract status information such as when contracts would be up for renewal.
It has also failed to shed light on any guidance about terms of reference/job description for these roles when the Unions requested such information.
“We trust that Council has this information,” the unions noted. “We can refer Council to a decision made [at a meeting] by a previous Council on February 19, 2014. At that meeting, Council had decided that an evaluation of senior administration staff should be done every two years.”
The unions went on to ask for edification of its membership, “How does Council enforce its decisions? We report Council’s decisions to our members and they have noted that it appears that Council makes decisions that are then ignored by the administration. There are apparently no consequences for such actions.”
Further, the unions in the letter shared with Council concerns about the management of the institution’s finances. It was pointed out, “We were asked to wait until the end of January for an offer [salary increase] from the administration because nothing could be decided until the accounts for December 2018 were completed.”
But according to the unions, “This made no sense to us. We hope that Council has better insight because according to the University of Guyana Act, Council has the ultimate responsibility for the University’s finances.”
In February even as it advocated for a speedy resolution in the interest of all concerned, particularly its primary stakeholders – the students, the university’s administration maintained that it did not have the fiscal space to meet the demands of the Unions for a 10 and nine percent salary increases for 2018 with respect to support [UB] and academic [UA] staffers.
The administration has also stated that while it is willing to have its financial position be examined by any competent and independent arbiter with a view to pronouncing on the data presented, this will only reflect the financial statements that were presented to the unions. “The administration is ultimately concerned that our students should suffer and that the unions are being urged to act responsibly as we seek to mutually resolve the current impasse in an amicable responsible manner.
To date the unions and the university continue to feud over their respective concerns. As a result the university has since invoked the conciliation powers of the Ministry of Social Protection’s Labour Department, a state of affairs that has yet to address the concerns of both sides.
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