One week after the University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU) and the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) announced they were pushing for their concerns regarding salary increases heard at the level of the Governing Council, these unions have now requested the immediate and direct intervention of the Government, through the Department of Labour.
The unions said on Wednesday that the reason for the request was mainly due to the fact that the administration of the University has embarked on a series of delay tactics which are apparently designed to force the staff into accepting the imposed three and four per cent salary increases for 2018.
The proposed increases have been described by officials from both unions as an insult. They have even argued that considering what staff go through — sometimes even subsidising their own classrooms — they deserve more. As such,
they plan to fight for more.
“The University’s staff rejected the attempt of the University’s administration to delay meeting with the Unions until Tuesday, December 18,” a joint statement issued by these Unions noted.
The offer to the Unions to meet to discuss 2018 negotiations was made on Friday, November 30, 2018. In response to a request for clarification, Vice Chancellor, Professor Ivelaw Griffith made it clear that the administration would have no time to meet with the Unions before that date.
According to the Unions, the administration has already indicated via a memorandum to staff that they intend to pay the unilaterally imposed increase before the University closes. The University closes on Friday, December 21, 2018, for the Christmas break.
It was noted that the University’s Registrar, Dr Nigel Gravesande, who serves as Secretary to the University’s Council, on Tuesday circulated a proposed date of Thursday, December 20, for the Council meeting to address the issue. The matter had been referred to him by the University’s Pro Chancellor, Major General (retired) Joseph Singh since November 19.
“This means that Council will not have an opportunity to deliberate the matter until the day before the University closes. The discussion would also take place at a point where most likely the increase would already have been paid out to staff,” the Unions added.
But these unions have an issue with that and have said while the time proposed for the Council’s meeting is 09:30 hrs they recalled that this has proven difficult for many Council members in the past few months to attend morning meetings in view of their work commitments.
The Unions therefore said it have serious doubts about whether the administration is actually attempting to secure the full participation of all Council members.
“The University’s administration has made it clear through its actions that it is attempting to force staff into accepting the imposed increase. The University’s staff reject this attempt, and call on the Department of Labour to intervene before the situation deteriorates further,” it said. The Unions have said they had attempted to negotiate this year’s salary increases with the University’s administration since January 2018, when they first wrote to the Vice Chancellor to request the start of negotiations. The agenda for the negotiations could not be agreed because the administration refused to let the Unions’ agenda items is discussed first.
According to the Unions, their number one agenda item was ‘wages and salaries for 2018’. They claim it is disingenuous for the Vice Chancellor to claim “he has been forced to ask for the unilateral increase because he could not get the administration to agree to discuss these matters.”
The UG administration has refused to negotiate wages and salaries with the Unions, as they failed to attend a conciliation meeting which was scheduled by the Department of Labour.
In early November, the Unions had refused to sign the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) put forward by the administration since it includes the non-submission of grades by lecturers as the sole performance issue.
The Unions maintained that the Vice Chancellor was attempting to use staff performance as a distraction to “cover up what appears to be the sheer greed of demanding the same percentage salary increase as persons earning far less than those senior members of administration”.
Despite these concerns, well-placed sources at the University have noted that the Union’s demands do not take into account existing allowances that were put in place to incentivise staff. According to one, these allowances include the University’s policy of waiving tuition for eligible staff who study at the university.