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University of Guyana workers gradually intensifying unrest

University of Guyana workers protesting during their lunch-hour to press demands for the resumption of pay talks with the administration.

University of Guyana (UG) academic and non-academic staff on Wednesday marched on the Turkeyen Campus, protesting the sloth with which the administration was treating its demand for higher salaries.

The University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) and University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU) want the 26-member Council, the highest decision-making body, to meet and give their stamp approval for negotiations to resume. The University of Guyana Students Society (UGSS) has been pushing for a restart of the talks that would inevitably pave the way for most lecturers to return to the classrooms for the first time this semester which began on January 26.

Among the workers demands are a 60 percent increase in salaries, a 200 percent increase in travel allowances , duty-free concessions for academic and some non-academic staff as well the payment of all outstanding social security (National Insurance) and income taxes dating back to 2012.

While UGSSA President Melissa Ifill was addressing the workers after their lunch-hour march around the campus, Vice Chancellor Professor Jacob Opadeyi arrived at his office and barely acknowledged his subordinates. “VC must negotiate, VC must negotiate, “Everything must be paid,” and “We will fight together” the workers erupted in chant as he exited his car. Asked by Caribbean News Desk when the Council would be meeting, he said “I don’t know” and went upstairs to his Chancellery.  Ifill told workers that a Council meeting is slated for Friday.

Noting that the unions have been negotiating with the administration since 2012, Ifill said “they have been pushing us around and we have reached the end of our road and now we say no more.” The union boss told workers that they would continue their sit-in until the UG administration meets with both unions although the UGSSA has not been recognised. “They have recognized us all along and they must continue to recognize us,” she said.

President of the UGWU, Bruce Haynes told Caribbean News Desk that the almost 600 workers are increasingly impatient about the foot-dragging. “This one (protest) is supposed to send the message out there that these staff that we have here are fed up and disgusted with the pussyfooting,” he said.