Issue surrounding VC was specifically about ‘terminal leave’ as distinct from paid annual leave

Dear Editor,

Your columns, over the recent weeks, have been replete with heated debate surrounding: the performance of the Vice-Chancellor of UG; his related employment contract; the legal status of the contending UG Unions; the decision-making process of the UG Council – all overtaken by the advice of the overseeing GTUC, via its President.

From amongst others, this observation is made with particular reference to the following extract from the latter’s letter in SN of May 31, 2019. It reads thus: “GTUC’s nominee’s support for the Vice-Chancellor being paid in lieu of leave”. At the meeting with the Unions on Wednesday 22nd May we advised that payment in lieu of leave was a practice in the private and public sectors. It therefore would have been unwise for the GTUC to undo a long held principle and practice. The GTU further advised that tactically, it is the unions’ advantage to use this opportunity to encourage their members to benefit from this practice.”

One is uncertain whether any competent human resources management practitioner functioning in a disciplined organisation (private or public), would agree that in this context ‘paid leave’ is a ‘principle’ in the first instance. Large employers, like the sugar industry for example, take care to schedule leave-taking, in order, amongst other things, to provide opportunity for potential successors to act up in identified higher grades.

At the same time, it is usually a management initiative to grant paid leave in response to specific human resources requirements. In disciplined organisations therefore it is quite ill-advised to allow employees to ‘take advantage’ of ‘the benefit of paid leave’. One is surprised, and indeed disappointed, to learn that this malpractice is of common indulgence as, not infrequently, leave-taking could involve families. Teachers, who are in the public sector, have limited choice.

But, as it turns out, none of the above applies to the situation surrounding the Vice-Chancellor of UG. The immediate and fundamental issue is about ‘terminal leave’ only. There inheres a contradiction of the terms of the contract to not proceed on paid terminal leave, and for the employee, in the absence of a renewed contract, to assume continuation of employment, however implied may be the mutual expectation – of employee and employer.

So that the GTUC’s representative was sorely misguided in not recognising that the issue was specifically about ‘terminal leave’, as distinct from paid annual leave.

Obviously equally so, was the Vice-Chancellor, and at one stage the UG Council; in not addressing the specific condition of ‘terminal leave’, which incidentally is not dissimilar to pre-retirement leave for pensionables.

What would concern the interested observer of this apparent confusion, is the content of UG’s academic programme as it relates to Human Resources Management.

Does the old adage still apply; or is it that we teach only what we practice?

Yours faithfully,

E.B. John

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