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UG Council to discuss salaries next week; unions demand negotiations

Vice Chancellor of the University of Guyana, Professor Ivelaw Griffith

The University of Guyana’s (UG) Council is next week (March 30, 2017) expected to discuss demands by the institution’s workers for increased salaries, at a time when their unions have begun industrial action to demand pay talks.

“The matter of salaries will be part of the 2017 revised budget, which will be one of three critical items the Vice-Chancellor will be placing on the agenda of the special UG Council meeting scheduled for Thursday, March 30, 2017,”  UG said in a statement Friday morning.

The University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) and the University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU) are demanding that they be called to the negotiating table, instead of the administration imposing a possible 12 to 15 percent increase.

UGSSA President, Jewel Thomas said the unions would continue to insist on wage and salary talks because, among their concerns, is the fact that they do not want their pay-packets to be linked to projected incomes from tuition fees and merchandising. “If increasing tuition fees is accepted by Council, then what happens and that is linked to enrolment. If you do not have the projected income, then the future is by no means guaranteed and so we would rather not be tied to things that depend on other factors,” Thomas told Demerara Waves Online News.

Thomas lamented that UG workers were not being given any space to negotiate before the possible award of increases by the Council. Talks, Thomas said, are likely to begin in May and another increase may be awarded in July.

UGSSA says it demanded wage and salary talks on in letters dated March 8, March 15 and March 17, but the administration responded on March 16, refusing to offer a percentage increase and to set a date for negotiations, although they indicated that action was being taken with regard to the sewage situation.

In its statement, UG recalled that the Vice Chancellor, Professor Ivelaw Griffith explained to the leaders of unions on February 27 and at a Town Hall meeting on March 20 that “in the absence of a decision by the University Council, it would be irresponsible of him to name a percentage salary increase, especially since one has to consider the source of the funds to pay the increase.” “The University Administration is committed to improving the salaries and working conditions at the university and to enhancing the quality of staff performance to deliver quality educational services to our students,” the institution added.

UGSSA members said the Guyana government approved UG’s budget for 2017 with an increase of at least GYD$483 million under wages and salaries.

UG accused the unions of boycotting a campus consultation on March 15 at which the revised budget and the creation of the School of Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation and the establishment of a new campus were discussed.

UG said it has been responding to the concerns of staff and has so far in November 2016 regularised the employment of seven persons from the UG Printery/Bookstore by offering them permanent contracts; in January 2017, three persons from the group of casual employees were appointed Tradesmen in the Facilities Maintenance Department; and in February, 20 casual employees were given contracts for one year and placed on the monthly payroll. All of these now will become part of the University’s financial obligations.

The current UG administration said it has increased the pensions of 50 persons who were receiving less than GYD$20,000 per month. “It also noteworthy that the University grants millions of dollars of educational waivers annually— where employees studying for diplomas and degrees pay no tuition fees.”

According to UG, other improvements to the facilities that have begun under Vice Chancellor Professor Griffith plans to construct a Teaching and Learning Complex for Science and Mathematics, a Students’ Social Complex and a new Maintenance Building.  Also approved were rehabilitation of the Pere Street property, and rehabilitation works to the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry.

UG listed other “broader enhancements” such as the Turkeyen and Tain Talks and the Undergraduate Research Program. Other recent developments include Wifi access across the Turkeyen campus via E-Governance, the placement of a fiber optic link between the Turkeyen and Berbice campuses, the creation of The University of Guyana Press, and the launch of the UG/Giftland VIP Card, which provides staffers and students with special discounts on purchases, part of a broader partnership being developed with the Giftland Group.