Administration’s secrecy stalling conclusion of UG wage negotiations

-unions

Although ready to accept the pay hikes that have been offered, the unions representing University of Guyana (UG) workers last week said that the failure of the administration to make a full disclosure of the disbursement of the $182 million being used to pay the increases remains a sticking point for reaching an agreement.

Additionally, the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) and the University of Guyana Workers’ Union (UGWU) have also questioned what they described as the sudden re-introduction of the demand for staff performance being a part of negotiations.

Following negotiations with the unions, the UG administration recently announced its final pay hike offer of 8% and 6% to support and academic staff members, respectively, retroactive to January 1.

A press release issued by UG’s Public Relations Division had said that Vice-Chancellor (VC) Professor Ivelaw Griffith was ready to sign the agreement and begin payments, which could be made with this month’s salaries.

The UG administration had previously said that it has honoured all requests by the unions for financial and other information during the negotiation period, which began on July 12.

Ivelaw Griffith

However, in a joint statement on October 3rd , the two unions were adamant that the administration had failed to honour all their requests for financial and other information.

According to the unions, the administration has refused to provide the breakdown of the $182 million and they noted that at a meeting with its executives a week ago seeking answers, the VC indicated that the administration “had done enough” and “nothing further would be provided.”

The unions say they need answers, since during negotiations the sum announced to pay “all staff” a 6% increase was $181 million. They said that after querying what was meant by “all staff,” they were told it meant “everyone, including seven persons who are not on the pay scales.”

According to the unions, after they were subsequently made an adjusted offer of 8% to support staff and 6% to academic staff, they were informed of the total moving from $181 million to $182 million.

“We are meant to believe that paying 2% more to UB staff and at the same time excluding the senior staff would cost $1 million more. This is not possible, given the figures that have previously been provided,” they noted.

The unions are saying that according to their calculations, if $182 million was to be paid solely to academic and support staff, considering all the payments to be made for the various allowances, pensions, and NIS, it would allow for a higher offer to be made to staff.

This, they are contending, is responsible for the administration’s reluctance to share the breakdown in how the moneys were allocated. “If they share it, they reveal their intention to nonetheless hold part of the amount for themselves, with or without Council sanction,” they said, while also noting that when they requested details about spending-priorities for the rest of the year, the administration also refused to provide any information.

The unions are also arguing that the Vice Chancellor’s reference to performance being included as an element of the agreement, also indicates the administration’s lack of seriousness as a participant in the negotiations.

The unions said since January it stated that performance could not be included in the negotiations, though the administration has made repeated attempts to introduce it into negotiations, “acting as if it can be a weapon to force staff to agree to their demands.”

“We reject such tactics. Performance cannot be part of any agreement for 2017 wages and salaries,” they said, adding, “We have made our positions clear, and acted straightforwardly and transparently throughout this process.”

The unions say they are prepared to sign an agreement which “honours our long-held principles. The percentages named are not the obstacle, since we are prepared to accept them. It is up to the administration to live up to the Vice Chancellor’s much talked about stance on transparency and produce an agreement that the staff will find satisfactory,” they added.

The UG administration had previously said that staff performance would be key in their negotiations and that it had honoured all requests by the unions for financial and other information during the negotiation period.

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