– 1 week after request made for Labour Dept interventionAlthough negotiations among the University of Guyana administration, the University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU) and the University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) have stalled, Vice Chancellor of the University. Professor Ivelaw Griffith says he is now available to meet with all parties.Vice Chancellor of the University of Guyana, Professor Ivelaw GriffithHis decision comes just one week after both unions had announced that they have now requested the immediate and direct intervention of the Government, through the Department of Labour, following failed attempts to have their concerns regarding salary increases heard at the level of the governing Council of the UG administration.The Vice Chancellor said recently that although the argument is that the UG administration is trying to impose a salary increases on the workers, he claimed it was untrue. However, the Unions claimed that a delay tactic was being used to force the staff into accepting the imposed three and four per cent salary increases for 2018.But the UG principal told sections of the media that that percentage could be increased although he could not make a promise to increase wages to eight or nine per cent. He said UG cannot afford it. “We are willing to sit down and talk… I’m available but we are not going to be talking only about salaries,” he said.According to him, UG has not had a collective bargaining agreement since 1976, and as such, he would like to have that and other issues discussed with the unions. He reiterated that the discussion must not be centred on wages only but other performance issues facing the University.Professor Griffith said while salary increases are important, the performance of the university holds the same importance. “I also want to talk about grades and I made it quite clear that no one who has outstanding grades is going to get a salary increase,” he stated.The unions have said they had attempted to negotiate this year’s salary increases with the University’s administration since January 2018, when they first wrote to the Vice Chancellor to request the start of negotiations. The agenda for the negotiations could not be agreed because the administration refused to let the Unions’ agenda items discussed first.From left: UGWU Executive Khemraj Narine; UGWU President Bruce Haynes; and UGSSA Chairperson, Dr Jewel Thomas during a press conference held in NovemberAccording to the unions, their number one agenda item was ‘wages and salaries for 2018’. They claim it is disingenuous for the Vice Chancellor to claim “he has been forced to ask for the unilateral increase because he could not get the administration to agree to discuss these matters.”The UG administration has refused to negotiate wages and salaries with the Unions, as they failed to attend a conciliation meeting which was scheduled by the Department of Labour.In early November, the unions had 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.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”.Despite these concerns, well-placed sources at the University have noted that the Union’s demands do not take into account existing allowances that were put in place to incentivise staff. According to one, these allowances include the University’s policy of waiving tuition for eligible staff who studies at the university.One week ago, the unions issued a joint statement saying, “The University’s administration has made it clear through its actions that it is attempting to force staff into accepting the imposed increase. The University’s staff rejects this attempt, and call on the Department of Labour to intervene before the situation deteriorates further.”The unions have said the offer to the unions to meet to discuss 2018 negotiations was made on Friday, November 30, 2018. In response to a request for clarification, Professor Griffith made it clear that the administration would have no time to meet with the unions before that date.According to the unions, the administration has already indicated via a memorandum to staff that they intend to pay the unilaterally imposed increase before the University closes. The University closes on Friday, December 21, 2018, for the Christmas break.Professor Griffith says he is willing to meet with these unions and the Department of Labour on Wednesday, December 19.