UG staffers taking protests off campus

Fed up University of Guyana (UG) staffers have decided to take their demonstrations over the non-payment of their benefits and tax and insurance contributions off campus.

The staffers, who resumed their picket action yesterday after commencing the industrial action on Monday, said that they did not feel their actions were being as effective as they would like.

Patsy Francis
Patsy Francis

As a result, they decided to halt their pickets after yesterday’s demonstration until Friday, when they will take up positions at strategic off-campus locations.

Patsy Francis, President of the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA), yesterday said that the pickets were intended to send a message to Vice-Chancellor (VC) Jacob Opadeyi, who is currently out of the country, that they were unsatisfied with the state of things at the university and that he needs to do better.

It should be noted that Opadeyi reportedly indicated to Melissa Ifill, UGSSA’s Vice-President, that he was in support of the picket actions and believed that it was necessary to effect the level of change that the university required.

Francis said that when the pickets were initially planned she was unaware of the
VC’s intention to travel and added that the UGSSA along with the University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU) feels that their efforts are not impacting the persons who have enough authority and influence to effect the level of change that is desired.

As a result, Francis said, there will be no picketing on the university campus today and tomorrow as was previously planned, but the unions will be taking the protest to several strategic off-campus locations come Friday. Francis, wanting to maintain the element of surprise, did not specify the locations the staffers intended to picket.

Aside from this change, all of the other promises and demands of the staffers remain in effect.

The VC and other UG administrators still have until Friday to present a timetable and a plan to effectively address the issue of the non-payment of their benefits such as leave passage and contributions, including NIS, Health Insurance and Credit Union.

Ifill had said that the failure of the university to make these payments while continuing to make deductions from the salaries of the staff on a monthly basis was no longer acceptable.

In fact, this practice may very well amount to fraud and those guilty could face legal ramifications if they are brought before the law, which is exactly what the unions are threatening if they are not satisfied with the university’s response by Friday.

Ifill said that the unions will bring a lawsuit against the university and force a change if it is not undertaken by the university’s own initiative.

She had also said that the unions may intensify their industrial actions in the coming weeks if they do not receive a favourable response by this Friday.

In the meantime, university staffers have been advised by the union to “work to rule,” meaning that they will not be taking on any responsibilities or exerting any energy not required of them in their contracts.

Ifill said that on countless occasions the staff of the university has gone far above and beyond what is contractually required of them with little incentives and little rewards.

Bruce Haynes, UGWU President, has said that such treatment has and continues to erode the morale of the staff, which is likely to affect the efficient functioning of the university.

The UGWU and the UGSSA agreed to commence picketing on Monday, following the late-payment of their salaries last week. However, even after receiving their salaries one day later, the unions, after consulting with those represented, decided to take several steps against the university to ensure the payment of their future salaries on time as well as the payment of their benefits and contributions.

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