UG unions call off strike, urge resumption of work

The two unions representing lecturers and workers at the University of Guyana today called off a five-week-old strike after signing two agreements with the administration of the institution.

In a statement, the unions urged a full resumption of duties as of 7 am tomorrow.

The statement from the unions follows:

The University of Guyana Senior Staff Association and the University of Guyana Workers Union would like to announce that it has called off all forms of industrial action and ask that staff fully resume duties as of 7:00am on Tuesday March 3, 2015.

The cessation of industrial action follows the signing of two agreements with the University of Guyana. The first agreement details the terms under which our members will return to work. The second outlines a 10% interim pay offer effective January 1, 2015. Both have been previously circulated and are now in the public domain.

The signing of these documents represents the end of a very protracted period of industrial unrest that ultimately resulted in a virtual standstill at the University of Guyana. We feel vindicated in the results of the action that we have taken. As we have maintained from the beginning, we were forced to first sit-in and then to strike as a result of a series of events, detailed below.

  1. The collapse in negotiations between the UG administration and the UGSSA/UGWU on salary and non-salary benefits following the cancellation of the negotiation meeting scheduled for January 15, 2015 by the University of Guyana Council on January 14, 2015;
  2. The attempt to impose a Workload policy without any attempt to get the input of the academic community and the UGSSA;
  3. The refusal of the University to negotiate with the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association – the Union long recognized by the UG Administration as the legitimate representative of the academic staff.

In response to these events, the Unions demanded that:

  1. The UGSSA must be recognized by the University Council as the bargaining unit for UA academic and non-academic staff and that the university must negotiate with a joint UGSSA-UGWU team.
  2. The UG Negotiating team must be given the remit and negotiations must recommence with both Unions (Achieved).

Demands 1 and 2 were satisfied with a statement by the University Council on January 30, 2015 that, “Council has instructed its Negotiating Team to resume its engagement with the UGWU and the UGSSA, without pre-conditions or undue delay”;

  1. The workload policy document must be withdrawn from Council and face the academic community and negotiations with the UGSSA before approved by the University Council.

Demand 3 was partially but satisfactorily achieved. Although the document was not withdrawn from Council, it was agreed that the policy would be considered for approval only after consultations were conducted. The VC’s office then outlined a timetable of consultations with faculties, academic board and the Unions – This timetable must be rescheduled due to the cancellation of faculty boards and academic board meetings during the month of February;

  1. A reiteration of our complete Memorandum of Demands and a 60% increase in salaries for 2015 or, an interim salary increase offer for 2015 and a schedule for continued negotiations BEFORE we returned to work.

This demand was satisfied with the signing of the Interim Offer Agreement and the Terms of Resumption Agreement.

These agreements underscore our standing as important stakeholders at the University of Guyana. The five weeks of industrial action was about more than money, benefits and improved working conditions for staff, though these were all extremely important matters that have been pending for over three years. The industrial action was also about: demanding respect for our work and sacrifice (not just manifested in monetary terms); resistance to dictatorial impositions from either the Council or the VC; insisting that tertiary education must be a national priority; and demanding better education for our students.

The Unions and the Administration recommence negotiations within 7 days. In other words, this is just the beginning of the process. We thank all those who have supported us through this very difficult period, and we hope that you will continue to support us as we work to improve conditions for all at the University of Guyana. We will honour our obligations under the agreement, but we also expect that the administration will attempt to do the same in good faith. Rest assured that University of Guyana faculty and staff will ensure that we finish what we have started during the past five weeks.

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