UG unions launching protest today over wages

The unions representing staff of the University of Guyana have indicated their intention to begin protests against Vice Chancellor Ivelaw Griffith today.

In a statement, shared on the University of Guyana Students facebook page, Bruce Haynes President of the UG Workers Union (UGWU) and Jewel Thomas president of the UG Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) explained that industrial action against Griffith will begin “with a picketing exercise near the Vice Chancellery at 12:15 hrs and continue until negotiations commence on salary increases based, at least, on the increases recommended for UG in the national budget.”

The unions contend that from their calculation the budget allocations “can cover an increase of at least 15%.”

A meeting held on Monday with the Vice Chancellor according to the unions left them with the opinion that Griffith misunderstands his leadership role and that although he is paying lip service to the idea of a unified university with minimal antagonism his management style demonstrates disrespect for staff and may indicate a hidden agenda.

“We find the direction of the current administration to be dangerous and self-destructive of our hopes to build a unified university.

This behaviour was foreshadowed in the administration’s failure to engage the unions when last year’s budget was being prepared; their great reluctance to share agendas for meetings/events; and most dangerous of all, the absolute refusal to allow persons space to speak. The Unions’ had to call their own meeting with the Vice Chancellor and his team (January 23rd) in order to be able to present the issues that were important to them, and establish a framework for dealing with them,’ the statement said.

It furthers states that the 2017 budget approved by Central government for the university includes an increase of at least $483 million under wages and salaries yet the university administration continues to argue that any discussions of salary increases will be linked to increases in tuition fees.

This correlation, the unions state makes the staff pawns in a divide and rule strategy where their financial future depends upon the pressure put upon other members of society, in this case, their own students.

They report that an initial request for negotiations to begin was rejected by the administration. After meeting with staff on March 7, demands were communicated to the VC in three letters sent by the unions on March 8, March 15 and March 17. These demand included a percentage increase for this year, a date for negotiations with the Unions prior to March 30, and the administration’s immediate plans for remedying the sewage crisis on the Turkeyen campus.

A response from the administration received on March 16 addressed only the sewage issue and refused to offer a percentage increase and to set a date for negotiations.

As a consequence of this failure on the part of the university administration, industrial action begins today.

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