UG Berbice campus facing more lecturer problems

Stabroek News
October 11, 2000

The start up of classes at the Berbice Campus of the University of Guyana (UG) may be further set back as other lecturers have joined the action taken by those from the Faculty of Social Sciences.

UG's Public Relations Officer (PRO), Paulette Paul confirmed reports that lecturers in other faculties are opting to follow the lead of their Social Science colleagues and demanding that certain conditions be met prior to their starting to teach at the Tain Campus.

When this newspaper spoke to the PRO on Monday she was noncommittal on the likely start date as she stated that she was not party to ongoing discussions. However, she did acknowledge that the Tain campus did not have its full complement of lecturers. Discussions between the lecturers and administration, she said, were still ongoing.

Contacted for a comment on Monday, Head of the University of Guyana Workers Union (UGWU), Al Creighton, stated that the body was in support of a satisfactory package being offered to persons from Turkeyen to function at the Berbice Campus. "We will support a proper and adequate compensation...," he said, adding that the union would have opted to handle the matter differently.

The UGWU's position, stated Creighton, was not to issue non-negotiable conditions as the lecturers did, but to adopt a stance of bargaining and negotiations.

The Berbice Campus was said to have received some 231 applications from students. The campus on the Corentyne, was constructed by government from capital provisions with UG spending some $4 million. The bulk of the expenditure, Bursar, John Seeram had said, was footed by the Ministry of Education.

On September 13 head of the task force responsible for overseeing the establishment of the institution, Dr Marlene Cox, at a press briefing at the Turkeyen facility had stated that the campus was scheduled to begin classes on completion of construction and equipping of the facility.

Dr Cox speaking from a prepared text then was refuting claims in a Guyana Information Services (GIS) release titled `Berbice campus opening delayed' circulated to media houses. On that occasion it was stated that the contractors were given until September 18, to hand over the keys following an extension on the September 8, deadline.

The university, she said, had always maintained that the final offering of any programme on the campus, would be determined by student numbers and availability of lecturers.

The GIS release had stated that an impasse between the administration and teaching staff of the Social Sciences faculty had necessitated a postponement of the campus' opening until further notice.

The lecturers were requesting 59% of the basic salary of a Turkeyen lecturer for the duration of the first semester with those from Turkeyen, who were going to Berbice asking for a 50% increase in their basic salary.

Other demands included duty-free concessions for those who had to travel to the ancient county, $7,000 per trip in lieu of accommodation and $5,000 out-of-town allowance.

Subsequently the academics had met the administration who in rejecting their demands, offered a 33% increase on the basic salary. In response to the duty-free request, the administration had said that it was outside its jurisdiction. Cox had stated that the Berbice Campus Task Force, which included the deans of two faculties, had discussions on the package that the lecturers should receive and acknowledged movement on the part of the administration from its original offer. The last offer, she added, which was made on September 5, would see a salary of one third of the lecturer's basic monthly earnings, travelling of $7,000 per return trip, accommodation, travel insurance and a per diem determined by the number of hours absent from Turkeyen.

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