The University of Guyana’s (UG) trade unions are prepared to “take drastic steps, including shutting the university down,” following the collapse of salary negotiations with its administration and the “arbitrary” imposition of additional workload on staff by Vice Chancellor Jacob Opadeyi.
In response the unions have pulled its representatives from the university’s committees and boards and is holding a meeting on Monday January 19th to forge a way forward. “Colleagues, if this issue doesn’t
rouse us all out of our slumber and we aren’t prepared to act collectively in our own self-interests, we may as well prepare ourselves for the slaughter,” a release from the unions Friday said.
With regard to wage negotiations the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) and the University of Guyana Workers Association (UGWU) say they “had reached a point in the negotiations where their demands “were being quantified in monetary terms.” A meeting was reportedly scheduled for yesterday at which time the unions’ submissions was to be reviewed and the position of the administration indicated.
However, the unions are alleging that they “began to notice hostile efforts the part of the UG Council to derail the process by attacking the bona fides of the UGSSA in particular, its recognition and legal certification.
In response, letters were sent to to Vice Chancellor (VC) Jacob Opadeyi and the University of Guyana (UG) Council pointing out that the UGSSA “has long been recognized by the UG Administration as the
legitimate representative of the academic staff” as it has had meetings, and has negotiated and signed agreements on behalf of the workers it represents. The unions further argued that derecognizing the
UGSSA arbitrarily “would be a show of bad faith and even malevolence by the Administration and Council.
The unions also pointed out that its lack of certification under the Trades Union Recognition Act is the result of an “error” by the administration in submitting incorrect documents to the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board, and that the current cycle of wage negotiations, which commenced in 2012 has dragged on for too long
Meanwhile, during a Council meeting yesterday Opadeyi reportedly tabled and asked for the adoption of a paper titled ‘Academic Workload Policy’ in which he “sets out new guidelines on matter such as teaching loads of lecturers, weekly and yearly working hours and staff leave.” The unions say though, that Opadeyi gave assurances last year that any such change in policy would be effected by consultations academic community the document was taken directly to the Council and thus did not receive the input of those it will affect. Opadeyi’s actions, the unions also say, further violate the last signed collective agreement on staff service which reportedly states that “changes in regulations governing conditions of service are made only after consultations with the UGSSA.” The “UGSSA was not consulted so the university cannot legally unilaterally change our conditions of service,” the release said.
The listed issues can only mean that UG’s administration and Council regard the workers of UG “with contempt,” the release said, while adding that recent events have proven that Opadeyi “cannot be trusted, he has little integrity, and therefore his word has no values.”
The Vice Chancellor has previously assured staff that with an increase in tuition fees, they would have benefitted from salary increases. During last year when the lowly paid academic and non-academic staff had endured repeated delays in receiving salaries because there was no money, the academic staff had been clamouring for their salaries to be increased on par with those being paid in the Caribbean.