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UG workers defy Vice Chancellor’s back-to-work expectation

University of Guyana students vent their anger

Vice Chancellor of the University of Guyana, Professor Jacob Opadeyi’s call for workers to be in “full operational mode” because classes resume from Monday has been labeled a “threat” by the union that says the “sit-in strike” continues.

President of the University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU), Bruce Haynes on Sunday reiterated that his union and the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) would not be going into the talks without first being formally advised that they are negotiations. “The workers return to work tomorrow (Monday) but not to work. So far, I haven’t seen anything responding to what we sent him.

The UGWU and UGSSA have vowed to continue their industrial action until Opadeyi clarifies the following statement – “Council has instructed its Negotiating Team to resume its engagement with the UGWU and the UGSSA, without pre-conditions or undue delay.”

Up to late Sunday afternoon, Haynes said the unions have not received any clarification from the UG administration and that the sit-in would continue on Monday. The union boss’ position followed a notice by the Vice Chancellor, saying that classes would resume on Monday, February 1 and that workers are expected to resume duty fully.

“Please report for classes on Monday February 2, 2015 as scheduled. We expect that all lecturers and services will be in full operational mode according to contractual agreements signed with staff. In addition, all students are invited to meet with the Vice Chancellor at 10m on Monday February 2, 2015 in the G.W.L.T (Large Lecture Theatre) for an update on the current industrial climate at the University,” states the notice  by the Vice Chancellor.

Haynes reacted, saying that the Vice Chancellor’s notice amounted to a threat: “He can expect anything but he certainly is going to get that. That will be perceived as a threat because if he assumes that by the Council put that out and that is what we are going to accept, he is a fool and he knows that he is not dealing with fools.” On the matter of telling the students that classes would be held as scheduled from Monday, the UGWU President remarked, “let him tell them. He would have to deal with the fall out.”

The unions have since objected to the manner in which the Council has informed that pay talks would resume and they want to know whether “engagement” means “negotiation” and if that would be done with undue delay. “We advised the VC that the decision, which is yet to be formally communicated to the Unions in a signed document, but which instead was issued as a press release, and, which was arrived at following the expulsion of all academics from the Council [an outrageous, discriminatory act] required some clarification,” he said.

The unions also wanted to know if dates have been fixed for the commencement and completion of negotiations, whether the Negotiating Team has secured a remit for a specific increase,  if that team was prepared to offer an interim agreement and if the Vice Chancellor was withdrawing the Workload Policy document from Council until the consultation process has been completed.

The workers’ unions hoped that those issues would be clarified by 11 AM Monday before their scheduled lunch time meeting with staff.  The unions assured all students that they were prepared to return to their classrooms and offices immediately “once satisfactory clarifications and responses to our queries are received and we have hammered out a favourable resumption of duties agreement.”

The workers’ demands include increased allowances and a 60 percent pay-hike. Under the banner of the University of Guyana Students’ Society (UGSS), students last week marched to vent their frustration at the poor teaching learning environment.