There exist grievances between the University of Guyana (UG) and the trade unions (UGSSA and UGWU) who represent workers at this institution. While the matters could only be resolved in an atmosphere of mutual respect, informed by the Labour Laws and procedures in the Collective Labour Agreement (CLA), it must not be lost on the parties involved in the importance of attending to the extant grievances.
It is becoming evident from some views in the media, surrounding this matter, gripes are being construed as grievances, playing out in a manner that could do more harm than good to the institution, those who work there and to those who it ought to serve, i.e. the students. Freddie Kissoon is one such person who is using this conflict to further his gripes with the institution and some personalities within.
Industrial Relations is a discipline, guided by laws, International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions, rules and universally acceptable principles, not how one feels. Trade unionists do not argue for reduction of benefits but for improvement or that same be used as a baseline to secure a better package for the workers. To argue for reduction for another opens the door for similar arguments to be made why you or the workers being represented should be deprived or are not deserving of better.
Day-to-day management of UG is vested in the Vice Chancellor not the Council. If a grievance occurs between the management and the union(s) either party can initiate discussions between the two to have it resolved. Where there has been a failure to resolve same, either party can refer the matter to the Labour Department for conciliatory proceeding to be instituted.
Conciliation is used as a process to defuse the situation, by bringing the parties closer together, with a view of resolving the conflict. Should conciliatory proceeding fail, the conciliator declares a deadlock after which the next stage is arbitration. Arbitration will be conducted consistent with the CLA or Labour Laws.
As General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), I advised both the management and unions of the value of utilising the afore-stated process as a medium to return normalcy to the workplace and their relations. The unions were advised of the futility in seeking to utilise the Council to address the grievances given the Council is not part of the process in resolving the grievances. Engagement with the Council on this matter will merely be one of courtesy.
The role of the University Council is to develop, guide and support policies for the management of the institution. The Council has no executive authority or responsibility. This is vested in the Vice Chancellor. When it comes to issues specific to industrial relations practices and principles, the GTUC’s representative on the Council is so guided as to how to proceed. On the recent issue of the imposition of wages/salary by the management, the GTUC’s representative, Mr. Ivor English, was instructed to advise the Council of our opposition to the imposition, which he did.
To the specific allegations being made by Freddie in his column that I have subverted time-honoured principles in the appointment of English to the Council, let the record be set straight (KN, 21st May, 2019- “UG: Something about this government I did not disclose”). English was appointed by the GTUC Central Executive Council.
There is a long held practice of the GTUC that unless one, who is placed to represent the organisation on any board or council, does not express the desire not to continue, he or she will continue when a new board or council is constituted. English, like others, is a recipient of this principle. In this specific case of UG, the Ministry of Education solicited from the GTUC, via a telephone call, whether or not English will continue as our nominee. I responded in the affirmative. Freddie’s view that English’s presence on the Council is a breach of time-honoured principle is all in his head or part of his mischief-making conduct.
He will always be at odds with my continuous call to respect time-honoured principles because he has no regard for same when it does not work for him. Issues cannot be resolved or guided by emotions, gut feelings, whether I like or hate you, what you do or if you will be adversely affected by any decision, absent some framework that will hold all to account. Society functions best through civilised approaches (law and order). Kissoon and those who thrive on lawlessness, tension and division, to validate their thinking, the society is bound to implode will obviously be at odds with my vocal steadfastness and could only see same as a “stuck record” or “funeral boredom.”
Freddie is playing a dangerous game with this society and our highest tertiary institution of learning. His longstanding gripes with the university and persons are clouding his ability to deal with issues based on merit, rules, laws and universally acceptable principles. In his recklessness, he cares not who he destroys, whose character he tarnishes, which institution he ‘breaks up’, once he gets his way. UG is not without problems, including the present worker/management relationship, but to bring about resolution and improvement require sane and objective approaches.
UG workers are being encouraged, in their effort to seek resolution to the present grievances, to apply the principles of industrial relations practices. Such have always served the workers well.
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