The University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) and the University of Guyana Workers’ Union (UGWU) were yesterday collecting signatures for a petition calling for the re-instatement of the recently dismissed Bursar John Seeram and Senior Accountant Hazel Bentick.
During a meeting yesterday at the Turkeyen Campus, UGSSA President Patsy Francis informed staff members
that a petition had been drafted, and that the UGSSA, in conjunction with the UGWU would be soliciting signatures so as to give the petition weight.
Noting that the amount of signatures collected could affect the level of seriousness with which the petition is regarded, Francis said that union members would be canvassing the campus yesterday until they amassed around 300 signatures.
Once the requisite number of signatures were collected, Francis said, the petition would be sent to the University of Guyana Council through Pro Chancellor Prem Misir.
Aside from the request to rescind the contract terminations of Seeram and Bentick, the unions are also calling for the setting up of an Advisory Committee to study the report of the recently completed special audit; the setting up of a committee to give advice on the university’s financial situation; and the convening of an emergency meeting to consider all related matters.
Francis stated that the unions plan to give the council time to consider the requests and said that failure to grant these requests will prompt immediate action by the unions. “We want to send a strong message to the council and we will therefore be looking to take some form of industrial action,” she declared.
Detailing recent events to the staff members, Francis explained that Seeram and Bentick had their contracts terminated consequent to the result of the special audit which was requested by Vice Chancellor Jacob Opadeyi. She shared with them the fact that the staff members’ contracts were terminated based on what appeared to be a draft document which stated that no malfeasance was found to have taken place by them or under their watch.
The report, however, did say that the financial system employed to manage the university’s finances was weak and generally inadequate. Francis however, maintains that the weak system was not a result of the Seeram or Bentick, but the fact that the university lacks the necessary funds to sustain its activities. Whatever they did, Francis argued, was done in the best interest of the university in an effort to keep its doors open.
“They were penalised for doing that they thought was appropriate for the circumstance they were in,” she said.
Speaking to Stabroek News this past week, Bentick said that she believed the university did what it thought to be in its best interest, but added that the financial situation at the university will not get better until it receives sufficient funds to run its operations. Even as Francis explained this to the staff, a lecturer from the Health Sciences Department shared that at least some of their part-time staff members still have not been paid are threatening to not work until they are paid. This is especially troubling since classes at the university are already in their second week.