UG Unions to VC: ‘Admin process of ensuring grades submission not our responsibility’

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– MoA on wages and salary increases rejected 

University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) and the University of Guyana Workers’ Union (UGWU) have refused to sign the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) put forward by the administration since it includes the non-submission of grades by lecturers as the sole performance issue.

In July 2016, the Vice Chancellor (VC), Professor Ivelaw Griffith requested and was granted special powers (with immediate effect) by the Finance and General Purposes Committee of the University to deal with lecturers who fail to submit grades on time. These powers include disqualification from annual increment.

Vice Chancellor, Professor Ivelaw Griffith

The unions on Wednesday said they now found it strange that the Vice Chancellor only now wanted to include that issue for the wages and salaries negotiation for 2017. They said that the issue of grades submission was not only limited to the lecturers, but that the administration controlled the majority of that process.

“We support the efficient operation of the entire assessment process; we cannot sign any agreement, which appears to make us responsible for that process. The unions are not the administration – we can only support what the administration does with regard to the process,” the unions said in a joint statement. The wording of the clause in the MoA appeared to transfer the administration’s responsibility to the unions, the two workers’ representative body noted.

“We asked for advice from recognised labour advocates and were told that the particular clause as worded could not be included in the Memorandum,” the Unions added in a joint statement.

The Unions said that they were in full support for the improvement of the grade submission process, but noted that the administration has ultimate responsibility for it, including any sanctions that must be implemented. They indicated that a suggestion was made to the administration that grade submission should be the second part of the negotiation process, but the administration did not budge.

UGSSA President Jewel Thomas and UGWU President Bruce Haynes

The administration issued an ultimatum of six and eight per cent to the unions, but refused to divulge the cost of the final offer, along with a breakdown when requested. This has caused the negotiations to become deadlocked with little or no effort on the part of the administration to budge.

“The administration has repeatedly removed from the agreement any clause that made it absolutely clear that members of the senior administration cannot be paid any part of the increase. The Vice Chancellor has also refused to even discuss the possibility of including the breakdowns we requested. He has said, after publicly touting his belief in “transparency”, that he will not be giving any more information about the details of the offer,” the statement said.

The Unions maintained that the Vice Chancellor was attempting to use staff performance as a distraction to “cover up what appears to be the sheer greed of demanding the same percentage salary increase as persons earning far less than those senior members of administration”.

“We are deeply disappointed that the University’s administration has persisted in stubborn and unhelpful postures that have prevented the signing of the agreement of the percentage increase to the wages and salaries of the University’s staff for 2017. The Guyana Trades Union Congress has become involved in the process of attempting to resolve the deadlock, but even here the administration has proven to be the stumbling block,” the unions added.

They said that they were remaining hopeful that there would be a settlement of the issue.

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