UG administration, unions reach agreement

– pacts to be signed tomorrow, strike ends

The University of Guyana administration and the workers unions have verbally agreed to sign two agreements which will see the resumption of classes and the end of a five-week strike.

The University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) and the University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU) said yesterday in a joint statement that the three parties have reached an agreement.

According to the UGSSA President Mellissa Ifill the parties met yesterday morning at the Ministry of Labour and verbally agreed to sign a Terms of Resumption (ToR) Agreement and An Interim Salary Increase Agreement.

Mellissa Ifill
Mellissa Ifill

“The meeting produced what we believe to be the final versions of both agreements,” Ifill said in the statement.

She said the unions were advised that both agreements were validated by the Ministry of Finance and the university’s negotiating team. However, the agreements were not signed because of the absence of the Pro-Chancellor. The parties are expected to meet on Monday when the agreements will be signed by the unions, the Vice Chancellor, the Pro Chancellor and a Ministry of Labour official.

Ifill indicated that all staff members are invited to a general meeting in the George Walcott Lecture Theatre at 9 am on March 2 to discuss the terms and implications of the agreements.

The parties yesterday agreed on an interim pay increase of 10% across the board for all categories of staff, without partiality “to any across the board end-of-year government pay-out.” This increase takes effect from January 1, 2015.

According to the terms of resumption, there will be no loss of pay for strike days and no loss of work for the university; arrangements will be put in place for staff to work back the time spent on the strike in order to complete the buildup of work, and to meet all university deadlines.

The unions are expected to call off all forms of industrial action with a full resumption of work within 48 hours of the signing of the ToR Agreement.

It stated further that all salaries withheld for strike action will be immediately released upon both parties signing the ToR. Negotiations will resume at a bilateral level within seven days of resumption of duties, and will first address allowances and other conditions of work in the memorandum of demands.

The parties are expected to then address the multi-year salary agreement and should they fail to resolve their differences by June 30, the Ministry of Labour will conciliate in the matter. If the parties fail to reach an agreement at conciliation within seven days, they will go to arbitration, under the following conditions: that the arbitration panel will be tripartite; the Ministry of Labour will appoint a chairperson of the arbitration panel, following consultation and agreement between the two parties; the other two members of the arbitration panel will be selected, one by each party; that the status quo ante will prevail as per January 25, 2015.

The memorandum also included that there should be no victimization or harassment by either side, which would include: no dismissals, no demotion, no transfer and no loss of leave entitlement.

Furthermore, all facilities and materials must be made available for classroom instruction within four weeks of resumption of duties and the administration is expected to provide weekly progress reports to the unions on the “procurement, provision and installation of these facilities and materials.”

The administration is expected to “broker agreements with the management of the GRA, NIS, credit unions and all other loan agencies paid through the university to prevent penalties to staff members for outstanding payments.” For their part, the unions will be called upon to have members submit mark-sheets for Semester I 2014-2015 within three days of full resumption of duties.

The agreement also specifies other improvements in teaching and learning environment: having projectors installed in all large classrooms, new or refurbished blackboards and whiteboards available in all classrooms and stationary supplies in place. Computers are also expected to be supplied to the desks of all deans, directors, heads of departments, heads of sections and coordinators.

Staff at the university began industrial action five weeks ago after salary negotiations collapsed. The unions had initially demanded a 60% increase across-the-board while the administration said it was only prepared to offer a 5% increase.

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