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Labour Ministry intervenes in University of Guyana pay dispute

The University of Guyana (UG) workers’ unions are being asked to withdraw threats of industrial action to pave the way for the Labour Department to try settling a pay dispute with the administration of that publicly funded tertiary institution, Junior Labour Minister Keith Scott said.

“While the Unions did not give a commitment to withdraw the threat they promised to consult with their members later today – February 12, 2019 – and shall advise the Ministry of Social Protection in writing on February 13, 2019,” Scott said in a statement issued yesterday. He added that UG’s administration has intimated its willingness to co-operate with the Ministry and facilitate the conciliation process.

The Chief Labour Officer summoned union and UG administration representatives to a meeting on Tuesday as part of conciliation efforts to break an impasse over the 2018 wages and salaries negotiations.

The unions said they are demanding an audit of UG’s books to prove whether the institution cannot afford to pay more than “the insulting 3% and 4% imposed on staff in December 2018.”  Negotiations for 2018 finally began on January 8th, 2018 and ended on February 1st “with the administration’s letter that stated its refusal to offer anymore to staff,” the unions added.

The Labour Minister said the Chief Labour Officer stepped in after the UG Workers’ Union and the UG Senior Staff Association threatened to engage in various forms of industrial action from Monday. “The Unions made good on their threat by staging a picketing exercise at the Turkeyen Campus during the lunch period on Monday, February 11, 2019. Since it was possible that the industrial action was likely to be intensified the CLO decided to intervene in keeping with provisions of the Labour Act, Chapter 98:01, and in the interest of industrial stability,” Scott said.

The Junior Labour Minister said the Chief Labour Officer told the union representatives that they did not follow the “established grievance procedure”.