UG, unions stalemate block 'back-pay' for lecturers; non-academic staff to get pay-out
Support staff of the University of Guyana (UG) are set to receive a retroactive salary increase, but lecturers will have to wait for their ‘back-pay’ as the unions continue to reject efforts by the administration to include performance as a condition.
“The administration’s arbitrary insistence on a performance element that applied to only one group of persons (lecturers) resulted in all staff being denied their retroactive payment. The TUC successfully persuaded the administration to let UB staff receive their increase,” the University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU) and the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) said in a statement.
The non-academic staff would be paid an eight percent increase retroactive to January, 2017, in keeping with an agreement that was signed at the Labour Department of the Ministry of Social Protection in the presence of Deputy Chief Labour Officer, Karen Van Sluytman.
The unions said academic staff, including those who have been exemplary in their performance, “would have to continue to be held hostage for a while longer while the administration insists on the inclusion of a clause” that includes performance as a prerequisite for getting the salary increase.
The academic staff are due to be paid a six percent hike in wages and salaries dating back to the beginning of this year.
According to the UGWU and UGSSA, professionals with experience in industrial relations have advised them that such a provision “has no place in a wages and salaries agreement”.
UG Vice Chancellor, Professor Ivelaw Griffith said after the signalled after the signing of the pay-hike agreement that he would continue to insist on performance. ” “I am delighted that we are able to close this chapter and begin paying the increases. This agreement also sets the stage for a new normal at the university, where performance is just as important as payment, and where accountability and affordability are key to enhancing entrepreneurship,” he was quoted as saying in a statement issued by UG.
Griffith has previously told Demerara Waves Online News that lecturers would first have to submit all outstanding grades before receiving their salary increases.
While the unions said they were not opposed to the timely submission of grades, lecturers should not be penalised because the administration has a responsibility also to ensure that performance is up to mark instead of merely shifting that responsibility to the unions. “It already lies within the administration’s power to deal with any cases of un-submitted grades,” the unions said.
The Vice Chancellor further stated that wages and salaries were not the only staff-related expenditure that the administration has to cater for. “In terms of affordability, these increases are not our only financial obligations. We still have an average of 4.5 percent merit award to fund, as well as allowances for traveling, entertainment, uniforms, and academic materials. We also have to worry about study leave (salary and housing for three months), sabbatical leave (salary and housing for 12 months), leave passage, and duty allowances for Coordinators, Heads, and Deans”, he said.
Wage hikes for academic staff should be linked to performance
University of Guyana (UG) Vice-Chancellor Professor Ivelaw Griffith is not backing down from his insistence that wage hikes for academic staff be tied to their performance.
“This university has lots of performance issues,” Griffith noted on Friday, while saying it would be irresponsible of him to negotiate salaries and not speak of the performance of staff.
The two workers unions, the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) and the University of Guyana Workers’ Union (UGWU), have said that performance cannot be part of any agreement for 2017 wages and salaries.
Speaking to reporters after the installation of the new student council, Griffith explained that he is of the view that delinquent lecturers who do not submit their grades in timely manner should not be given a salary increase.
“It is not fair to students and it is not fair to the lecturers who submit grades on time… every lecturer is responsible for doing the right job every time. We want timely submission of grades. If you don’t submit… you should not get a salary increase,” he declared.
Following a meeting last Wednesday with the UGSSA and UGWU and trade unionist Lincoln Lewis, Griffith said that they had extracted the performance criteria clause from the original agreement and placed it as an appendix item in the document.
He explained that the administration has prepared the final document, which he has to review before tabling it once again for the unions.
“There is one principle that I enunciated that will not change: that is the performance which has to be a part of the solution…,” he said, while acknowledging that the unions shared a different view. “The union was saying there should not be anything about performance but I said no. So, I am hoping that they are bendable and they didn’t raise any objections,” said Griffith while noting that he is ready to pay the increases.
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. Griffith indicated that the administration “had done enough” and “nothing further would be provided.”
Addressing the allegation that the university administration was being secretive about the breakdown of $182 million that was allocated for the increases, Griffith maintained that it is not necessary. “The union wants to see if there is any space for more and in the context of affordability we were working on it is what we have put on the table and that is what we can afford. I will not be offering something we can’t find the money for. The $182 million is what we have and can afford…,” he said.
The unions were adamant that the administration had failed to honour all their requests for financial and other information and refused to provide the breakdown of the $182 million.
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.
Unions urge reform to insulate council from interference
Meanwhile, the two unions on Friday said that the impasse over wages and salaries has dragged on in part due to the absence of the University Council.
In a joint statement, the UGSSA and the UGWU noted that the life of the previous Council ended on July 12 and there has been no explanation to date about why a new Council is not in place, although they said they understand that Minister of Education Nicolette Henry is working on its formation.
The unions noted that a Governance Committee created by the last University Council is currently considering amendments to the existing UG Act and Statutes. “The Unions, in keeping with their longstanding interest in governance, made a submission to that Committee. We feel that one of the key objectives of any reform of the existing governance structure of the University is to ensure that the Council is able to function without political interference,” they said.
As part of a movement towards this, the unions noted that they have always advocated for an appointments process for Council members that allowed the various interest groups to nominate their representatives, and that this was the approach adopted by former Minister of Education Dr Rupert Roopnaraine. “We hope that Minister Henry will also allow the organisations to nominate representatives, and so help to facilitate the Council functioning in as non-partisan a way as possible. We are interested in having a Council that seeks what is the best for the University and undertakes to perform its oversight role with diligence and care,” they added, while expressing the hope that the new Council will be in place for the University’s Annual Business Meeting, which is usually scheduled for Convocation Week in early November.
Submit outstanding grades or no salary increase, says UG Vice Chancellor; union boss says that will be "dishonesty"
University of Guyana (UG) Vice Chancellor, Professor Ivelaw Griffith said lecturers would first have to submit all outstanding grades as part of a new performance-driven criteria before they could receive salary increases for 2017, but President of the Workers Union (UGWU), Bruce Haynes said his union would have none of it.
“That is performance criteria but it cannot be tied to wages and salaries. Whatever it is that is agreed, those persons will be paid. If we sign those documents and then we are told that he has isolated those persons, he is going to be in breach of the agreement.
That is going to be a major chicanery and we are going to put him to task for that because we don’t deal with dishonest people,” Haynes told Demerara Waves Online News.
Griffith said at a meeting held Wednesday with the General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), Lincoln Lewis in the presence of representatives of the Workers Union (UGWU) and Senior Staff Association (UGSSA), he insisted that performance criteria must be a prerequisite for the granting of salary increases.
Griffith said that a clause would be extracted from the Memorandum of Agreement between the UG administration and the unions and put in a separately in a letter of agreement. The major focus of performance for academics, he said, would be the submission of grades. “I am insisting that people who have outstanding grades should not get a salary increase….We have a window for everyone to turn in their grades and it is not fair to the students and it is not fair to the lecturers who turn their grades in so one indicator of performance is timely submission of grants,” he said.
He hoped that the unions would no longer object to performance criteria being part of the agreement.
Griffith said lecturers would be given one week or two weeks to turn in their grades or no monies would be handed over to the errant lecturers.
On the thorny demand by the unions for more information on how the UG’s executives would be paid and from where the money would be drawn, Griffith made it clear that such information would not be provided. “That’s not necessary and it’s not necessary because the reason why the unions are asking for that is to see if there is any space for more and the context for affordability is the context of what we have put on the table is what we can afford,” he said.
UG has set aside GYD$182 million to pay eight percent to non-academic staff and six percent to academic staff retroactive to January 1, 2017.
The Vice Chancellor declared that “it would be irresponsible of me to say let’s talk salary increases and not talk performance when this university has lots of performance issues.”
UG executives' salary increase hinges on Council appointment; ready to pay other staff next week
University of Guyana (UG) executive staff members will have to await the appointment of a Council before they are paid salary increases, but academic and non-academic staff can receive their six to eight percent salary hike by October 9.
UG Registrar, Dr. Nigel Gravesande told Demerara Waves Online News that the executive staff members would not be paid until the Council is constituted. The Ministry of Education is yet to name a Council since the life of the last decision-making body ended in July.
Gravesande said the eight percent to non-academic staff and six percent to academic staff retroactive to January 1, 2017 would amount to GYD$181 million. He could not say whether there would be any money left over after the pay-out.
In a statement issued Saturday, UG sought to dispel claims that the Workers Union (UGWU) and Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) were never informed that the executive staff would not be paid along with other workers.
“It is to be noted, as well, that exclusion of the University’s executive members from the negotiation package and consequential benefits was communicated clearly and unambiguously to the unions on September 20, 2017 in a letter which stated that, “the administration is committed to consummating an agreement that will not include members of the executive, but will include elements of performance …,” the institution said.
The Registrar could not say whether the performance yardstick would take the form of a merit-increment system to determine how much workers would actually receive.
The UG statement referred to a September 27, 2017 communication by Vice Chancellor, Professor Ivelaw Griffith to the university community that states “I am ready to sign the agreement and begin the payments. If the agreement is signed within the next 10 days, the payments can be made with the October 2017 salaries.”
The administration said its “final offer” of six and eight percent were communicated to the union presidents on August 30, 2017 “in the context of what is affordable in keeping with the mandate by the University Council.”
The Administration said it has honored all requests by the unions for financial and other information during the period of the negotiation, which began on July 12.
Increases in salaries and pension, Griffith said, were not the only financial obligations the University has to bear, saying that other benefits such as allowances for travelling, entertainment, uniforms and academic materials; study leave (salary and housing for three months); sabbatical leave (salary and housing for 12 months); leave passage; and duty allowance for Deans, Heads and Co-coordinators must be added to the list.
The University says it continues to pay an average of 4.5 percent merit award to all eligible members of the staff annually.”
“The Vice-Chancellor takes this opportunity to thank the hundreds of dedicated academic and non-academic staff members for their exemplary service, and looks forward to the collective efforts to enhance the University’s teaching and learning, research, and service to the University community and the wider society,” UG said.
UGWU President, Bruce Haynes has said that workers might be willing accept the pay increase offer if they were given sufficient information such as where the money would be drawn from to pay the executive team members.
- The University of Guyana