Time is, and has always been found to be, a great healer; the proverbial balm that induces the rehabilitative process so essential to health and happiness. This is no less so in industrial relations matters. The recent work stoppage at UG produced unwarranted wounds inflicted in the heat of the dispute and induced a climate of non-co-operation that contributed inevitably to a protraction of the schedule of resolution. Over time, unintended victims, the students, were forced to incentivise that resolution with their public ad misericordiam cries for prompt intervention. Driven by passion but unaided by reason, the protestors ensured that common sense and pragmatism were submerged in paroxysms of intransigence.
Introspection would reveal that matters external to the equation of the relationship of employer and employee may have been pivotal to the action of some of the strident agitators in the industrial mélange that erupted. University campuses are no strangers to unrest during critical periods of electoral sensitivities and some misguided students become the unwitting propellants of an incendiary agenda contrived for the occasion. Only time will tell whether the youthful constituency of this institution was unduly compromised by way of disaffection from the popular weal.
Among the silent majority, the more prudent eventually saw it fit to vocalise their immediate concerns, ie, the fulfilment of their syllabus imperatives, and rightly so, since operational procedures dictate that preconditions are met before matriculation is certifiable, no doubt in observance of the adage that time and tide wait on no man! Surely, every UG student is entitled to the unhindered process of elevation to graduate status in the same way that the President of the UGSSA was able to secure her doctorate, and consequently, her eligibility for employment. Guyanese are especially vulnerable in that in more ways than one, we are below sea level, not only geologically but academically, given the reputed state of education at UG, if Vice-Chancellor, Professor Opadeyi’s assessment of the productivity of some lecturers is taken at face value. It would appear that he will need superhuman engineering expertise to prevent more widespread subversion of the academic credentials of this tertiary institution. All Guyanese wish him well in this pursuit.
Furthermore, Prof Opadeyi’s disclosure of the financial laissez-faire disbursements that characterised the fiscal resources of the university warrants a response from the current and previous administrators. Transparency and accountability are not confined to the state apparatus and it may not be inapposite to invite Transparency Institute (Guyana) Inc and the Justice Institute Guyana Inc to lend their resonant voices to this endeavour.
In a bygone era, when dissent was anathema to its democratic image, the long arm of the law, with an iron fist, would have intervened purportedly to rescue those unfortunate victims, contrary to their sole intention, which was to ensure the abortion of the planned programme of disruption. To the credit of the current security forces and the officials of the Ministry of Labour, the restraint exercised was exceptionally commendable in view of the flagrant criminal conduct as evidenced in the media, which was no doubt fuelled by the uninformed opinions of the expired armchair generals who have mushroomed in the recent past.
It may be excusable for public servants, police personnel, other service employees, etc, who are year-round workers to expect their representative unions and associations to mobilise their members in pursuance of a living wage. It would, however, be unfair to compare this situation with the compensation packages of lecturers which include payment for periods when the classes at the university are in recess, ie, Xmas, Easter and Summer holidays – some 5 months contributing virtually nothing to the student population! Moreover, while the former workers have little or no choice in seeking that kind of employment, it is flummoxing that a superbly qualified person would accept a job placement at a university without ensuring that the salaries, allowances and resources were commensurate with her expectations. Maybe, the Vice-Chancellor should acquaint himself with the work of our own Malcolm Corrica (Lord Canary) who put it somewhat poignantly – “Gal like ah da can’t wok under me, none day, none day!”
Justice Charles. R. Ramson SC
(Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs (rtd))