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Industrial unrest at University of Guyana looms; unions accuse Vice Chancellor of peddling falsehood

Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 January 2015, 21:05 by GxMedia

File photo: President of the UGSSA, Melissa Ifill; President of the UGWU Bruce Haynes and UGSSA Treasurer , Patsy Francis.

The unions of the University of Guyana (UG) have “rejected” Vice Chancellor (VC) Jacob Opadeyi’s formal response to their demands and still intend to take industrial action to delay the start of the new semester next week barring a favorable response by 4:00pm Thursday.

In an interview Tuesday Opadeyi told Caribbean News Desk that he sent a letter to the unions earlier in the morning foresees UG recommencing without a hitch. “I don’t see any shutdown at all because what has happened so far…we have cleared it up this morning,” he had said. He declined however, to disclose the contents of his letter.

The unions have demanded a 60% wage increase, along with duty-free concessions, increased traveling allowances and other benefits.

In a combined statementtoday the University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU) and the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) said “no concrete salaries and benefits proposal to any category of worker was offered by the (VC) in response to their demand for a 60% salary.”

Caribbean News Desk was able to see a copy of Opadeyi’s letter and in it he says that “the Memoranda of Demands for UA and UB staffs submitted to my office is still the basis of ongoing salary negotiations. We will return to the negotiation table as soon as the University Administration has completed its work on how the increase will be funded and it is remitted to Council for consideration.”

Tuesday the VC said “…it will cost us about $2.5 billion if they are to get the 60% …I wouldn’t use the term “the increase (but) we will pay an increase.” He also expressed the administration’s willingness to grant the additional benefits but the unions today said “that “no offer has been made by the VC on duty-free concessions and increased allowances.”

The unions have dismissed this response as “woefully inadequate,” and said that despite the VC’s stated optimism…the staff must take some form of industrial action to register our dissatisfaction and frustration.

In light of these realities the unions are advising staff, students and the general public “that barring further communication from the VC toaccede to our demands by 4pm on Thursday January 22nd, 2015, industrial action will be taken to delay the new semester.”

On the matter of the new workload policy proposed by Opadeyi the unions say that a consultation schedule has been proposed and accepted. In his formal response to the unions Opadeyi proposed to have faculty consultationstake place in February at faculty board meetings while a consultation will be held with the UGSSA on February 18th, 2015. Additionally, the Academic Board will be consulted during a meeting on March 10th. The findings of these consultations will be presented at a Council Meeting on March 25th, 2015.

The unions have accepted this proposal “under the condition that the policy would not be approved by the (council) prior to the conclusion of consultations and the revision of the document.” Opadeyi has been accused of tabling the proposal for adoption without consulting staff members on its provisions.