UWI lecturers' union outfoxed in agreement to end lecturers industrial action in T&T
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jan 24, CMC – The West Indies Group of University Teachers (WIGUT) meets here on Monday in an emergency meeting after Tertiary Education and Skills Training Minister Fazal Karim said the government would provide an estimated TT$87 million (One TT dollar =US$0.16 cents) to the University of the West Indies (UWI) to end industrial action by lecturers.
Lecturers have refused to file the grades for students who sat examinations last semester in protest at the non-payment of the arrears owed to them.
WIGUT had maintained that the non-uploading of marks’ is still in effect “until a satisfactory response from Campus Senior Management is received concerning the payment of arrears in salaries”.
Students have been staging demonstrations, including blocking the gates to the university in a bid to get the lecturers to end their action.
Karim told Parliament Friday that the arrears will be made in tranches by May 31, this year. He later said he expects once the matter has been settled the students will get their grades.
“I expect there will be no more reason to strike.”
WIGUT president Dr. Russel Ramsewak in a note to the membership said during a meeting with campus principal, Professor Clement Sankat and other officials, he was informed that Karim had made a statement in Parliament on the issue.
“The minister made that statement based on information fed to him by campus senior management. I reiterate that up to this point we only had a proposal on the way forward in this impasse, which we meant to discuss with you all at the previously arranged meeting for Monday 26th 2015.
“Given these critical circumstances in which the minister would find himself in an embarrassing position based on misinformation from senior management, the secretary and myself caucused and sought legal advice on the matter.”
He said based on the discussion and advice received, “I had to make an executive decision as president. In addition, we were informed that if I did not agree with the accord it would have been retracted and campus management would insist on mediation as the only way forward".
The WIGUT president continued: “This would have led to longer delays and no guaranteed outcome through the Ministry of Labour. Furthermore, given the fact that the minister had made a public statement in Parliament based on instructions from senior management, WIGUT's non-acceptance of their proposal would have cast us as villains in the public view.”
Ramsewak said he made it clear to the UWI officials “that I was very disappointed not to have been given the opportunity to discuss this proposal with my Executive and the Membership.
“However, given the constraints of the situation, I had no choice but to act in what I believed was your best interest,” he said, adding that the details of the accord will be made known at the membership meeting on Monday.
Sankat told the Trinidad Express newspaper Saturday he was “very pleased” with the accord with WIGUT and “more than 85 per cent of our 12,000 undergraduate students have registered and are in classes”.
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