Sat | Jan 18, 2020

Gov't must bring industrial action at UTech to an end - Bunting

Published:Friday | November 1, 2019 | 9:35 AM
Opposition Spokesperson on Education, Peter Bunting - File photo

Opposition Spokesperson on Education, Peter Bunting, is calling for Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, to intervene in the impasse between protesting academic staff at the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech) and the institution over the non-payment of outstanding sums.

The 500 staff members have been on strike since last Friday after the university failed to make the payment.

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.

The Ministry of Finance has indicated that it is unable to provide additional funding to honour the agreement.

In a statement, Bunting said that the situation is untenable, arguing that students have now missed one week of lectures and the graduation exercise scheduled for this weekend may not include the traditional participation of the members of the faculty.

“Any prolongation of this industrial action will place an unreasonable burden on students and their missed lectures will be difficult to make up,” he said.

“The academic staff has been very patient in their efforts to access the improved benefits negotiated for the 2015-2016 contract period. Their forbearance is also evidenced by the fact that there is no agreement for the 2017-2019 contract period which has already ended.

“In all the circumstances, it must be concluded that the resolution of the UTech Academic Staff contract is being treated with low priority by the Ministries of Finance and Education”, said Bunting.

The opposition spokesperson says the government must move urgently to resolve the situation.

Meanwhile, the University of Technology, Jamaica Academic Staff Union is expected to meet this afternoon to discuss the government’s latest offer.

The Ministry of Education yesterday proposed an interim payout of $400 million in retroactive wages.

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.

This falls well short of the outstanding $886 million reportedly owed to the UTech staff.

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