UG staff should return to work while negotiations take place over a two-week period

Dear Editor,

I am on my final year, final semester, in my law studies at the University of Guyana. Like my colleagues I have applied for entry to the Hugh Wooding Law School and in addition I have applied to the Norman Manley Law School. These institutions work on strict deadlines. They place a heavy onus on the University of Guyana to fully prepare us and to do so on a schedule that will not accommodate late entries for UG students. If we don’t get in, in September 2015, we will have to wait until next year; and there will be students after us. They will want their opportunities as well.

Let me first strongly state: I am in full support of the industrial action. I support the entire staff, lecturers and professors in their call for higher wages and salaries.

I have explained the loss I personally and my fellow students-at-law stand to suffer, in addition to all other students who will also suffer. A semester or year delayed back in school translates to months of earnings students will lose, especially those who wish to find work immediately after UG. It also translates into more expenses parents and guardians have to incur.

Let me add, that I have come to love Guyana and I greatly appreciate the education I am receiving at the Law Department. Like all departments of the university, many of the lecturers and staff I believe, are well qualified and work assiduously with little pay. I believe that the strike action has gotten the attention of those in power; I strongly believe they are ready to come to an agreement. The government has come to be reminded that unity is power and those on strike wield a lot of power by withholding their labour. For the most part those on strike are united.

I believe that the cause can now be accomplished without further disruption to the obligations owed to students. I strongly believe that the entire staff can and should return to normal duties while negotiations take place for a period of two weeks.

During the two weeks, the unions (registered or unregistered) can continue working on further strengthening and motivating their people. Then, should their demands not meet with a favourable response – even after some compromise – then they could return to the strike with greater resolve.

Therefore, let us give peace a viable chance. Peace, in the sense of normality. I do not believe that the President of this great nation of Guyana would not appreciate things returning to normal, and all negotiations being favourably concluded within fourteen days. I believe two weeks of negotiations is enough time. The government either knows that it can meet the demands or it knows that the demands cannot be met, with some degree of compromise on both sides.

Finally, I do not want my letter to come across as political, because although I empathise with those who are on strike, I do not support any political party or political movement in Guyana. I support the strike action because I don’t believe it is politically motivated. The workers want and deserve an improvement in their welfare and wellbeing.

But those who are suffering and stand to lose the most, while negotiations are at an impasse, are the students. I strongly urge all members of staff to return to the university as per normal, and for the leaders of the strike action to engage in active negotiations for fourteen days. I would urge the government not to engage in union busting and I would urge the entire staff not to engage in a go-slow. Negotiations must be amicable and have the elements of reasonableness, compromise and transparency.

Should all fail at the end of the fourteen days, then as a foreign student, I am only left to suffer whatever necessary or unnecessary inconvenience there is from any negative turn of events. I would much rather things returned to normal with the demands of those on strike reasonably met.

Yours faithfully,

Marlon Robinson

Belizean student-at-law

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