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UG Vice Chancellor hopes salary offer will avoid disruption of classes

University of Guyana Vice Chancellor, Professor Jacob Opadeyi

Vice Chancellor (VC) of the University of Guyana (UG) Jacob Opadeyi says he has responded to demands made by the university’s unions and that he believes his response will prevent the delayed commencement of the coming semester.

“I don’t see any shutdown at all because what has happened so far and we have cleared it up this morning,” Opadeyi said today in an interview.

On Monday the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) and the University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU) said they will delay the commencement of the second semester of the 2014/2015 semester several unmet are not favorably responded to by Thursday January 22nd.

These include a 60% wage increase, 200% increase in travel allowance, revision of the medical scheme and the restoration of duty free concessions for academic and some non-academic staff.

Speaking to Caribbean News Desk Tuesday Opadeyi said “we have responded,” but declined to provide details of the response. His statements nevertheless suggests that the staffers may not have been offered the full 60% increase they are demanding.

“…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 said that duty free concessions and increased allowances are part of the package that has been offered to staffers.

Attempts to contact UGSSA Executive members Melissa Ifill and Patsy Frances on the VC’s response were unsuccessful. UGWU President Bruce Haynes also could not be reached for a comment.

Opadeyi plans to finance increase by employing several “cost-cutting measures,” including decreasing the amount of part-time staff at the university. “Every university needs part time staff to teach areas that your staff cannot teach (but) you don’t bring part time staff to teach areas your staff can teach. So we are looking at what saving you can have using that model… we cannot have 250 full time lecturers and two hundred plus part time lecturers.”

Technology will be used to reduce costs. The Center for Information Technology (CIT) Opadeyi shared, will be used to facilitate lectures to UG’s Tain Campus, thereby eliminating costs associated with having lecturers travel there to facilitate lectures. He said a return trip costs GUY$20, 000 and that cutting this out will save the university GUY$10 million annually.

On the proposed new workload policy Opadeyi says the unions seem to have stretched the truth by claiming that he tabled the proposal for adoption by the UG Council. “The workload policy was not sent to council for approval, the document is not final. What we have done is to look at best practices around the world and then we proposed that this should be what a lecturer should teach.”

Opadeyi says “the workload policy is to ensure that we are able to have some level of efficiency in how we spend our money. To see what is the average workload and if everybody does the average workload how many lecturers do we need.” He insists that consultations will determine whether the proposal is retained or if there will be a need for change. Such consultations began today despite promises by the union to boycott it.

“Some people showed up and we started today,” the VC said, although he said that he is not sure which unions were represented.” With regard to not recognizing the UGSSA as a legitimate union Opadeyi said that the university’s administration will continue engage UGSSA on setting up parameters for discussions. With regard to actual negotiations though, he said, only the registered union – UGWU – qualifies to be part of such negotiations.