Striking UG workers want president’s intervention

As they continue to strike, some University of Guyana (UG) workers have voiced their disgust at the renewed calls by UG’s Vice-Chancellor Jacob Opadeyi for the end of the industrial action as a precondition for any negotiations with the administration.

The workers, who want President Donald Ramotar to intervene and end the crisis at the university for the return to normalcy, spoke to Stabroek News on the condition of anonymity out of fear of victimisation by the administration.

“It is ridiculous that we are on strike and the government and the Vice Chancellor [Opadeyi] met with the students but not with us,” said one worker.

“Whenever the sugar workers strike they always get what they want,” said another worker, adding, “Four weeks after the UG staff start their strike, nothing has been done.”

Meanwhile, another worker referred to the recent strike action by Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) workers for the payment of salary increases the GGMC had failed to pay. He pointed out that those workers returned to work after an agreement was made between their union and the management of the GGMC. However, he said the administration and the Ministry of Labour are asking UG staff on strike to return to work before an agreement is reached. “Apparently gold is better than education,” a lecturer chimed in as he echoed the frustration and disgust of the staff on strike over the collapsed wage negotiations.

“The VC like a white elephant,” another lecturer said, as he expressed no confidence that the administration will negotiate until they return to work. “He [Opadeyi] is trying to play the waiting game… he is trying to wait until the situation gets worse before he acts,” the lecturer added.

“In 2012, we went back to work so that negotiations could continue, but nothing came out of it,” another worker contended. He added that the workers would also like to be compensated for the four weeks they have been off the job.

“The VC is disrespectful… we need the President to intervene and we will return to normalcy,” declared another lecturer.

On Monday, Opadeyi renewed calls for the end of the industrial action and the return to normalcy at the University’s Turkeyen campus.

He opined that the current impasse is being used to point fingers and pointed out that no one entity should be blamed for the current state of UG, but the national community as a whole which has sat back and allowed UG to suffer from decades of neglect, abandonment, and political grandstanding.

The academic and non-academic staff who are represented by the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association and the University of Guyana Workers’ Unions, respectively, have reiterated their resolve to continue strike action until a workable agreement is made.

‘Win-win solution’

Meanwhile, Chief Labour Officer Charles Ogle, in a letter released yesterday, once again suggested that the unions end the strike so that negotiations can continue in an “atmosphere of normalcy,” while noting that there will be no victimisation.

Calling it a “win-win solution” for all stakeholders, Ogle defended the proposal against charges of bias and pointed out that it would not be useful for the Ministry of Labour to intervene in the dispute “until and unless both parties in such a dispute have indicated that they have a genuine willingness to discuss whatever issue is at hand.”

“We must add that advantage can still be taken of the proposed win-win resolution by having an urgent cessation of the strike and returning to the bargaining table which is the place for settling differences,” he added.

In addition, Ogle wrote that the ministry is always willing and prepared to meet and discuss in an objective manner, once the parties mutually express a desire to meet.

Ogle noted that at no time did the ministry abandon its responsibility to resolve the situation at UG or any other, while claiming that no dispute or grievance is beyond the ministry’s capacity.





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