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University of Guyana unions, administration reject pay-hike proposals; sit-in may end next week

UG workers meeting with their representatives at the Turkeyen Campus.

University of Guyana (UG) staffers on Wednesday rejected a counterproposal by the university’s negotiating team for a wage and salary hike, but say they are prepared to return to work next Monday if their own counterproposal is accepted.

The unions added that they are also open to going back to work if the administration submits a favourable proposal during a meeting of the negotiation teams set for Friday, and that their returning to work is predicated on the demands of the students being met.

Until and unless these conditions are satisfied, the unions say, the ongoing sit-in will continue.

These decisions were taken earlier this afternoon during a consultations been the executive and general membership of the University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU) and the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA).

The consultation took place following a meeting, this morning, of the unions’ negotiating teams and the team negotiating on behalf of the university.

During the unions’ meeting UGSSA President Melissa Ifill, one of the staffers negotiating on behalf of staff, shared that the administration proposed a 25% increase to be applied over three years. There would be a 5% increase in the first year, 10% the following year, and the remaining 10% the year after that, Ifill explained. Among the staffers’ original list of demands is a 60% wage-hike, a 200% increase in allowances, and duty free concessions for eligible staffers.

When the administration’s proposal was put to the staffers it was rejected, and the unions decided that a counterproposal will be submitted immediately.

“We will let them know that the offer is rejected. We will be countering with a final proposal of 25%, 25%, 25%, over a three year period.” She also added that the “the cost of living adjustment increase usually given by the state is also to be negotiated.”Ifill was cautioned however by Law Department Head, Sheldon McDonald, not to make any proposal final due to the generally fluid nature of negotiations.

Speaking with Caribbean News Desk after the meeting Ifill also said that the unions are also considering to demand that the 60% increase initially asked for be implement over a 3 year period, with a 20% increase being effected each year.

“We will continue the sit-in for the next two days until the meeting that we have with negotiating team on Friday…we will meet with staff following the meeting and if from the meeting our offer is accepted, or the counter offer is one that we can live with we will return to work on Monday,” Ifill summed up while adding the staffers will also not return to work unless…”the demands of the students have been met, which are also our demands, because it’s the environment in which we have to work.”

The students want improved security on campus, timely delivery of grades, higher quality of education delivery, more technological aids for teaching-learning, better sanitary facilities, free Internet and more furniture, among others.

She also stated that staffers have agreed allow other demands to be considered as negotiations proceed, and go back to work on Monday once there is a favourable consideration of the unions’ wage-hike counterproposal.

The second semester of the university’s present academic year should have commenced last Monday. This was delayed, however, as staffers proceeded on a sit-in after several demands they say are long overdue were not met by a deadline the week before. In addition to the sit-in, staffers have engaged in several demonstrations at Turkeyen campus. UG’s students have also been taking actions of their own to protest what they say are untenable conditions at the university. Just yesterday, staff and students united and  successfully barred the back and front entrances of the university. Though the event was called by the University of Guyana Students Society (UGSS), only a handful of the body’s 5,000 or so members participated. The staffers on the other hand, turned out in droves.

The staffers had planned to picket the Office of the President (OP) on Wednesday but this action was called off after the meeting of the negotiating teams ran into the time the picket was slated to commence.