Workers of the University of Guyana (UG) picketed the Administration Office of the tertiary institution on Wednesday, raising concerns over the delays in the commencement of salary negotiations.
The picketing exercise was organised by the University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU) and the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA).
According to the Union representatives, the picketing exercise is as a result of the administration’s failure to respond within the timeframe requested, to their repeated requests and formal demands for the early and urgent commencement of salary negotiations.
The Unions noted at a General Meeting on March 7, the workers indicated that they are not prepared to “wait until it’s convenient for the Vice Chancellor, Professor Ivelaw Griffith, to begin salary negotiations in May 2017.” It was noted that the UG administration seems determined to withhold, indefinitely, the 15 per cent increase recommended by the Government in the last budget.
To this end, the Unions wrote the Vice Chancellor on March 8, requesting a percentage figure for the increase and to start negotiations early, as well as to address the condition of the sewage system at the university.
In a delayed response, the administration the promised to look into the sewage situation and while some steps have been taken in this regard, no word has been given with regards to the other two issues relating to salary increases, which were raised.
At Wednesday’s protest action, President of the UGSSA, Jewel Thomas, explained to Guyana Times that the staff found the delays unacceptable and is calling for a much earlier date.
“The reason for this protest here today is that we do believe that the money is available for them to begin negotiations but for reasons, known to them, they are delaying those negotiations,” Thomas posited.
Furthermore, the UGSSA President noted that the administration is trying to tie the negotiations to the highly unpopular tuition hike. “Our position is that there is no need, whatsoever, to do that… There is no need to tie the two things together, we don’t believe in being played against our students. We don’t believe you should pit staff against students, we reject that,” Thomas outlined.
Meanwhile, Sherwood Lowe, a lecturer at the University for over 20 years, expressed his disappointment at the UG Administration, noting that such behaviour is not good industrial practice.
“In the meantime, we are seeing expenditures on high-level staff and overseas trips and we are generally concerned. There may or may not be good reasons for these overseas trips and receptions but we want to have a sit down with the Vice Chancellor so that we can go through the numbers,” the lecturer asserted.
He added that the Vice Chancellor’s refusal to meet and discuss the issues at hand shows, while it may not be intended, disrespect to the staff, whom he said are working beyond the call of duty, given the conditions in which they are working.
“It is a very serious matter, we are not very happy about it. The Vice Chancellor refusing to meet with us is not something that would encourage workers to give of their best and as soon as he understands this, it would be better for the University,” Lowe outlined.
On the other hand, part time lecturer and Member of the UG Council, Christopher Ram, also showed solidarity with the workers, telling this newspaper that they have a right to demand proper level of earning.
“It’s always unfortunate in my view when workers have to go on protest. We ought to be able to sit around the table and negotiate what is reasonable and what is not. So my roll here essentially is to show solidarity with the Union, to listen to their causes and if the issue comes up at the Council, to join in making representation on their behalf,” Ram stated.
The irate workers will continue this industrial action until a favourable response is given by the Management of the University of Guyana.