UG workers union threatens industrial action if salaries not paid by Thursday

The University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU) will take industrial action if staffers are not paid by the official pay date on Thursday, its President Bruce Haynes said yesterday.

Haynes said the decision was made during a meeting with the UGWU and the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) on Friday after the UG administration breached the Terms of Resumption agreement, which the three parties signed to end a five-week strike.

Negotiations had collapsed between the administration and the unions after the administration refused the unions’ proposed salary increase. Industrial action, which began with a sit-in, soon escalated to a full-blown strike, which also saw students protesting, demanding the resumption of their classes.

On March 1, the parties signed two agreements to end the strike and resume classes. However, the unions said the terms of resumption agreement was breached after the administration failed to pay their salaries immediately, including a 10% interim increase.

The unions were promised a 10% interim salary increase, retroactive from January 1, 2015 once they returned to work, which they did on March 3.

“They have to pay us our money due by Thursday or else we would take to industrial action,” Haynes told Stabroek News, adding that they were also demanding a sit down with Vice-Chancellor Jacob Opadeyi for answers as to why his administration breached the agreement.

“He has to answer those questions for us,” he said. “Everything starts and stops with the Vice-Chancellor,” he added.

Stabroek News was told that Opadeyi was out of the country and would be returning shortly. This newspaper also made several efforts to contact Deputy Vice-Chancellor Elizabeth Ramlall on the issue but was told several times that she was unavailable or in a meeting.

Haynes said the parties had settled on a decision that all staff be paid immediately upon returning to duty but when they turned out to work only part of their salaries was paid. He stated that for some staff, the administration owed them “arrears.”

“They made a mock of the payroll,” Haynes said, adding that the unions remain disappointed over the first meeting with the UG negotiating team. “It was not negotiating, it was a briefing session and we don’t want to be taken for granted,” he said.

President of the UGSSA Dr Melissa Ifill had stated that since the administration had violated its obligation under the terms of resumption, workers were likewise under no obligation to honour theirs.

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