The University of Guyana Workers’ Union (UGWU) and University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) held a picketing exercise yesterday outside of the Turkeyen Campus office of the Vice-Chancellor to press for a forensic audit after they were told by the administration that there are no available funds to grant any increases in wages and salaries.
About 20 persons from the two unions, armed with placards, stood outside of the office of Vice-Chancellor Ivelaw Griffith yesterday afternoon during their lunch period to protest.
The unions say they met with the university administration on two occasions – January 8th and January 16th – when they were supposed to discuss the increase in wages for 2018 after an agenda had been agreed on.
However, UGSSA President Dr. Jewel Thomas said that while the unions presented their proposals for increases at the second meeting, they were told by the administration that they needed to “cost it and get back to us.”
“We waited because they said they were not in a position to give us any info until the end of January… we had wanted things to be concluded earlier and so finally we got a letter from them, dated January 31st… and the letter said the offer was 3% and 4%, as in what they had already imposed in November and given to us in December,” Thomas explained.
She pointed out that the university’s administration explained that it could not afford any higher increases since it has no money and is in a financial deficit. As a result, the administration also noted that all negotiations for 2018 would be concluded.
“So, they said essentially that they just wanted to move on to discuss 2019 and at that point the staff said they reject that and the fact that they say they have no more money and that they want to call off negotiations. They refused to discuss 2019 and we put that into a letter and then they responded. The response said that they had no more money… but they were prepared to discuss other items, such as uniform allowance, pension and transportation allowance, amongst others,” Thomas explained.
She questioned how the administration can claim there is no money but wants to discuss other matters that also involve money.
“We are at the stage now where we don’t trust any of the financial reporting we are getting. The university has not had audited accounts since 2014 and we don’t trust what is going on. We really have questions about where the money has gone because we know that more money has been coming into the university. At this stage, we want a forensic audit of the university to see what has been going on since 2016,” she said.
Thomas said that given the fact that the university has been receiving increased subventions from central government and has also increased tuition fees, the unions do not believe the administration’s claims.
She said that despite the increased revenues, students and staff are still forced to endure deplorable conditions, such as bat, rat and mould infested rooms.
Right after the picketing exercise, Griffith arrived at his office and was questioned about the breakdown in negotiations. However, he would only say that they have formally informed the Ministry of Social Protection about the situation and will be following its guidance.