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Union mulls move to protect UWI contract workers

Published:Sunday | July 6, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer

The West Indies Group of University Teachers (WIGUT), which represents tenured academic staff at the University of the West Indies (UWI), is moving to widen its reach to cover post-retired staff employed to the institution on contract.

This will include persons such as Professor Brendan Bain who was given a contract to head the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training (CHART) Network by the university after he retired.

Last week, vice-president of WIGUT, Dr Paul Brown, told The Sunday Gleaner that while the Bain controversy did not push the union in its current direction, it believes the time has come to increase the category of persons it represents.

"It is the nature of employment. It's the way employment is going now; and what currently exists is that they are not represented by a union," declared Brown, as he argued that WIGUT is seeking to protect the interest of temporary staffers.

"It is just the reality of employment and quite a number of persons are on post-retirement contracts. Professor Bain was on such, but we were not influenced by that issue," added Brown as he noted that WIGUT's constitution might need to be amended.

At present, WIGUT only represents employees with a regular three-year contract. An individual employed for a year for someone on sabbatical has no union representation.

CLAIMS DOCUMENTS

"The claims documents are for individuals on both open campus and the physical campus in Jamaica. We serve different groups of persons. These claims were submitted around May this year. Now, the formal process of negotiations involving meeting, clarifications and then going into negotiations will start as early as next week. Hopefully by the end of the year we can sign off on most of the major issues," said Brown.

Bain has been sacked by the university after he provided expert testimony in the case of a Belizean homosexual challenging the legitimacy of the buggery laws in that country.

He has since gone to court and received an injunction barring the university from hiring a replacement until his case is heard.

But Sunday Gleaner sources say UWI administrators are taking steps to protect the university from similar court action by post-retirement employees on contract.

This could include clauses in the contracts making it clear that persons on contracts have to fall in line with the positions taken by the university.