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UG strike may end Monday in exchange for interim pay hike, improved working conditions

UG workers after one of their many marches around campus.

A five-week old strike by University of Guyana (UG) workers could end by next Monday that would see them getting an interim 10 percent salary increase as well as improved teaching-learning facilities and assurances that steps will be taken to ensure that all deadlines are met.

President of the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA), Dr. Mellissa Ifill said the unions and the UG administration have agreed to sign the interim salary offer agreement and a terms of resumption agreement on Monday.

The interim salary offer agreement envisages that the interim pay-hike would be payable from January 1, 2015 across the board for all categories of staff without prejudice to any across-the-board end-of-year government pay-out.

The UGSSA, Workers Union (UGWU) and UG’s administration are also expected to resume bilateral negotiations on March 9 to first discuss allowances and other conditions of work to be followed by a multi-year salary agreement.

According to terms of resumption accord, if the unions and the UG administration fail to resolve their differences by June 30, 2015, the Ministry of Labour will conciliate in the matter and if they fail to reach agreement in seven days, they agree to go to arbitration by a tripartite panel. The Labour Ministry will appoint the chairman following consultation and agreement between the two parties, and the other two members would be selected one each by the UG administration and the unions.

The proposed terms of resumption agreement seeks to guarantee no victimization or harassment by either side- no dismissals, no demotion, no transfer, no loss of leave entitlement and that there will be no break in service.

The accord further assures that workers will not lose pay and that all salaries held would be released. “All salaries withheld for strike action shall be immediately released upon both parties signing the Terms of Resumption agreement.

Against the background of several classes having been cancelled for since the start of the semester, the unions and UG administration agreed that arrangements would be put in place for “staff to work back the time of the duration of the strike in order to complete the backlog of work and to meet all University deadlines. The Unions will call on its members to submit Mark-sheets for Semester I 2014-2015 within three days of full resumption of duties, according to the agreement.

Once signed, the university’s administration will commit to provide all necessary facilities and materials for classroom instruction within four weeks of resumption of duties.

“The Administration will provide weekly progress reports to the UGSSA and the UGWU on the procurement, provision and installation of these facilities and materials,” states the accord.   They include projectors for all large classrooms, new or well refurbished blackboards and whiteboards in all classrooms, sufficient markers, white and blackboard erasers, chalk, academic supplies-writing pads, file folders, pens, graph books-, adequate supplies of printing and photocopying paper for all offices and Internet.  They also agreed that computers must be supplied to the desks of all Deans, Directors, Heads of Departments, Heads of Sections and Coordinators.

UG is also expected to immediately engage the Ministry of Labour to conduct a health and safety audit, and shall commence the implementation of recommendations within one month of presentation of the report.

The administration says it will broker agreements with the management of the Guyana Revenue Authority, National Insurance Scheme, Credit Unions and all other loan agencies paid through the University to prevent penalties to staff members for outstanding payments.