A group of employees attached to the University of Guyana’s Turkeyen Campus on Tuesday picketed the Vice Chancellery, calling for audits into the spending of the University as it is allegedly unable to properly account for its expenditures and more so, offer a salary increase to its staffers, although tuition fees have been increasing annually.
President of the UG Senior Staff Association (UGSSA), Jewel Thomas told members of the media earlier that the University has rejected their proposal for an increase in salaries saying that the University has a deficit.
Thomas accused the University of wasteful spending, explaining that the University has been hosting talks and events to accommodate various speakers, some of whom the University does not even know of, and funds go towards their accommodation, food and travel.
“University has a public profile, we’ve been hosting talks, events, lectures, visiting people some of whom the University doesn’t even know of their presence, we just know that they came and they went and they cost us money but we don’t know exactly what they did,” she noted.
The workers’ representative said she has made efforts in the past to garner information on these visiting persons and was told that they are “advisors” and experts among others, who spent in some instances, one month.
Thomas on behalf of her colleagues took the opportunity to complain of what she described as almost inhumane working conditions that they are forced to work under as sections of the university are infested with bats and rats along with other harmful pests.
Added to pests, some employees are forced to work in overcrowded classrooms with leaking roofs and no air conditioning.
These conditions, the employees said, have led to persons falling ill in the past. According to her, in one instance classes were moved from one location to another because of an infestation where they spent at least ten months with wires hanging from the ceiling since the refurbishing was not completed because of unavailable funds.
Thomas said she is hoping that the needs of workers can be addressed at the earliest since continued industrial action can have a major impact on the entire campus. The leader of the association, however, noted that workers plan to picket as long as it takes for some sort of action to be taken.
The employee added that the Unions met with the executives of the University twice this year – the 8th and 16th of January – where they were later told that the University is in deficit for 2018.
“Finally we got a letter from them dated the 31st January but it actually came to us on the 1st February and that letter said that they could only, the offer was three and four per cent as in what they had already imposed in November and given us in December. They said that that was all they could afford and that there was no more money, in fact, the University was in deficit for 2018 and that would conclude all negotiations for 2018. They were not prepared to discuss the additional demands that we had had because there were additional demands we had around things like uniform and gratuity for UG staff,” she said.
Meanwhile, the University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Ivelaw Griffith, said the Unions breached an agreement they had with the institution.
“The University of Guyana has an agreement in December 18 of last year with the Union that if there is any impasse we will go to conciliation which is the next level. In violation of that agreement, the Union started protesting. We have formally notified the Ministry of Social Protection, Department of Labour and we will be following their guidance,” the VC explained.
In November 2018, the trade unions representing UG workers announced that they have rejected the imposed salary increases of three and four per cent announced by that institution for 2018, as they deem the entire situation “deeply disrespectful”.
According to the Unions, “not only are the imposed increases a violation of good labour relations practices, but some might say that arrogance and hypocrisy are displayed in this action.”