As the University of Guyana’s (UG) staff continues to strike after the collapse of wage talks, Vice-Chancellor Jacob Opadeyi yesterday said he had received a commitment from some lecturers to teach classes starting today.
Opadeyi told Stabroek News that lectures for 76 courses would begin today.
During a telephone interview yesterday afternoon, he said the lecturers for the courses committed to teach. He did not identify the faculties responsible for administering the courses. However, he added that the UG administration is hoping to see more lecturers returning to work.
When asked whether the commitment was given because of the five percent increase proposed by the administration, Opadeyi said that there are no negotiations currently, while he pointed to the present strike action by staff from both the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) and the University of Guyana Workers’ Union (UGWU) that began when the semester was due to begin three weeks ago.
On Monday, UG Personnel Officer Jeffrey Walcott wrote staff asking that they provide the Personnel Division with the names of lecturers and courses taught during the period January 26 to February 6, 2015, “to ensure that accurate payroll action is implemented for the month of February 2015.”
During this newspaper’s visit to the Turkeyen Campus yesterday, a few classes were in session. The Small Lecture Theatre was filled as a lecturer taught his lessons for the day. According to Opadeyi, the administration is still working for the resumption of classes so that students would not continue to be affected. Some students, however, have boycotted classes both in solidarity with striking lecturers and also to press their own demands for improvements of facilities.
Meanwhile, UG staff continued to picket for the second day of a planned three-day strike yesterday.
President of the UGWU Bruce Haynes, who was out with the workers in front of the main entrance to the Turkeyen Campus yesterday morning, told this newspaper that the strike will only end when the demands of the workers are met.
Among other things, workers are seeking a 60 percent salary increase.
Referring to the current impasse with the administration, Haynes said, “At the moment, this is a chess game and it’s a stalemate. We don’t intent to be checkmated.”When asked if he sees any resolution in sight, Haynes said “Good sense will prevail.”
Haynes also said that Dr. Mellissa Ifill delivered correspondence to the Ministry of Labour on behalf of the unions yesterday afternoon.
In response to this publication’s enquiry about the next move after the end of the three-day strike, Haynes said that the strike will continue. “It is what has to be done” he explained. Additionally, he said that the unions have since solicited help in cash and kind for the workers on strike and will be distributing hampers today. He noted that international help is also being sought by the unions.
Plans are already in the works for unions to meet with the Guyana Trades Union Congress, Haynes further mentioned. He noted that there are also efforts underway to seek an audience with President Donald Ramotar and although he was uncertain that the unions will be entertained, Haynes nevertheless said if the unions feel the meeting is useful, they will attend.