After continuous back and forth between the Administration of the University of Guyana and its two Unions – University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU) and University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) – an agenda has been agreed for discussions on wages for 2018 and for a meeting that will be held on January 8.
This pronouncement was made by President of the UGSSA Jewel Thomas, who said that they were able to come to the decision after the Department of Labour of the Ministry of Social Protection mediated a meeting.
Over the last months, the UG Administration and Unions have been at loggerheads after they were not able to decide on an agenda to discuss at their meeting. Thomas had noted that the Unions were proposing discussions for an increase to wages and salaries for 2018, but the Administration was only willing to facilitate the talks unless the discussion of wages and salaries came along in a package that included other parameters including work load policy and performance management system among others.
Speaking to Stabroek News, Thomas explained the Unions took part in two meetings this month, on December 13 and December 18. She explained that the first meeting was held at the Department of Labour who acted as a mediator.
“After the press conference [November 26] there was a period when we were trying to get [General] Council to meet and the Administration was dragging their feet and then they proposed meeting us because the Vice Chancellor [Ivelaw Griffith] said he was offering a meeting on the [December] 18 but he wanted to meet before. We asked the Department of Labour if they can invite both parties to a meeting and the Chief Labour Officer Charles Ogle did and he did his mediation functions,” Thomas explained.
She said that Ogle facilitated a meeting where they were able to work out the ground rules for the following bilateral meeting between the Unions and the Administration. However, she explained that their membership were “not happy” with having a bilateral meeting but Ogle requested that they do it as an initial step.
“We consulted and explained the situation and though they were not happy, we did go ahead and met with the Administration, just the two of us and this was on December 18. The meeting on December 13 laid out the rules for the meeting on the following Tuesday and we had to agree the agenda,” Thomas explained.
When the Union and the Administration finally met, with the head of the Registrar leading the Administration’s team, they were able to resume the conversation from the meeting with the Department of Labour which led to them agreeing on the agenda and for the negotiating meeting that will be held on January 8.
Thomas pointed out that they were able to agree on an agenda that includes negotiations for wages and salaries for 2018; unmet demands such as pensions, medical scheme, transportation allowance, research allowance and uniform allowance; recognition agreement; workload policy which also includes academic staff annual leave, earned study leave and sabbatical leave; and leave for UB and UA non-academic staff.
The first two items on the agenda are from the Union and Thomas noted that they should be negotiated first, but there might be some adjustment to the order in which the other items are discussed and any finalisation will be done on the said day.
“The administration dropped one of the items they had previously put forward – Performance Management System (Performance Planning and Review). We did ask them about why it had been dropped but while they indicated that it is in some way connected to the University’s planning process, we are still not clear about the reasons for the action,” she added.
When questioned about how she feels about the recent developments compared to the last few months, Thomas said that the planned meeting should not be interpreted as a victory.
“It doesn’t mean anything until we actually meet and we actually have an agreement. Unfortunately, experiences have taught us to be extremely sceptical. While we were pleasantly surprised to have our matters be agreed, they have been resisting putting our items first. If they do indeed go through with this, then that would be an excellent step,” Thomas said, while stating that the developments, however, are still positive and welcomed.
“With regards to everything else, we have learnt to be extremely cautious and we will not be feeling pleased until we have signed an agreement that covers those things we have been waiting for. In some instances nine years and it’s too long we’ve been waiting. So until then we will not be contented,” she added.