Mon | Nov 30, 2020

Gov’t offers UTech staff $400m carrot to end strike

Published:Friday | November 1, 2019 | 12:24 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter
Placard-bearing UTech students protest at the entrance to the Ministry of Education’s Heroes Circle offices yesterday.
Placard-bearing UTech students protest at the entrance to the Ministry of Education’s Heroes Circle offices yesterday.

The Ministry of Education is hopeful that a proposed interim payout of $400 million in retroactive wages will cool the wrath of striking academic staff at the University of Technology (UTech) who have ground classes to a halt for seven days, sparking frustration among students.

The ministry said that it would foot $250 million of expenditure and co-opted support from the administration of UTech for a further $150 million.

But it is uncertain whether that offer, which falls well short of the outstanding $886 million reportedly owed, will find favour with the 500 teachers when they meet with president of the University Academic Staff Union (UTASU) President Lebert Langley this morning.

Lebert Langley has insisted during the seven-day strike that his group would not budge on the three-phase payout plan agreed with the managers of UTech.

Workers received the first tranche of back pay in July and expected payouts to be made in two other phases – October 2019 and April-May 2020.

“Our simple response is that we have a commitment that was made. We have it in writing and we are holding the Government, in the form of the finance minister who made this promise, accountable. It cannot be we have forgotten what we are committed to do,” Langley said while responding to questions on RJR’s ‘Beyond the Headlines’ programme yesterday evening.

Earlier, a group of UTech students staged a demonstration outside the ministry’s Heroes Circle offices to express discontent that the strike by academic staff may affect their end-of-semester examinations.

The Ministry of Education said that it had to dig deep to find the funds.

“We have had to comb through the budget and make cuts at enormous sacrifice to some of our programmes in order to find these funds. I am appealing to UTech’s academic staff to accept the proposal so classes can resume. Our students must be allowed to continue their education,” Samuda said in a press statement issued last night.

In a letter, UTASU said that while it understood the anxiety being felt by students, academic staff were forced to take strike action to press their case “in the face of extreme provocation”.

It is encouraging students to use the unplanned break to complete projects and assignments.