Fri | Mar 22, 2019

UTech on edge - Staff threaten action over gov’t subvention

Published:Wednesday | February 20, 2019 | 12:26 AMNickoy Wilson/Gleaner Writer
Professor Stephen Vasciannie

With disquiet growing among members of staff at the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech), its president, Professor Stephen Vasciannie, is urging them to remain patient as negotiations continue over the government subvention granted to the institution.

“Our view is that detailed, patient, careful negotiation will lead to a result that reflects the importance of the University of Technology and its employees to national development and economic growth. We also believe that a proper adjustment of the subvention will reflect an acknowledgment of fairness in industrial relations,” Vasciannie told The Gleaner, citing that the institution’s administration is optimistic about the outcome.

His statement comes after a meeting yesterday between UTech Academic Staff Union (UTASU), UTech Administrative Support Staff Association, the University and Allied Workers’ Union and the UTech Students’ Union to discuss the issues surrounding the subvention awarded by the Government, which many contend is inadequate.

‘POOR SUPPORT’

UTech staff argued that the institution receives the lowest per-capita government subvention of any tertiary institution in Jamaica, and less than most secondary schools.

UTASU President Lebert Langley lamented that the subvention demonstrates the Government’s disregard for the university and its staff.

“The concern is the depressed support or the poor support that we get from the Government, and that is when we look at the support Government provides for tertiary institutions across the board. The support that they give to the University of Technology, when you look at what they do for the others, is poor. Very, very poor,” Langley said.

He added: “This is an issue that we have had wrestling with the Government [over] for years. ... We are at a stage where the staff is saying they have had enough.”

Langley indicated that if their concerns were not addressed, they would be forced to employ more persuasive methods.

“If Government of their own volition and guided by their moral compass and conscience can’t find it to take the action that needs to be taken, then you may very well find that the staff will have to seek redress that affirms that action that is required,” he said.

ADMIN AGAINST STRIKE

But Vasciannie said the university administration would not support any such action.

“The management of the university does not support industrial action in relation to the subvention,” the university president said.

In an interview with The Gleaner yesterday, Education Minister Ruel Reid confirmed that the Government was in negotiations with the university. However, he said, a number of issues at the institution are hindering the progress.

“They know the staff complement of UTech is to be regularised before there can be any consideration for adjustment. Those technical works have not yet been completed, and they are also to have a further meeting with Mr [Nigel] Clarke (finance minster) to look at the overall submission … . So I am just saying that they are very much aware that there is a process. There is anxiety, but there is a process to be pursued, and we are not at the end of the process,” Reid said.

nickoy.wilson@gleanerjm.com