FIX­ING UTECH UTECH BLEED­ING

Aca­demic staff leav­ing in droves be­cause of low wages and hos­tile work en­vi­ron­ment

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - An­dré Poyser Staff Re­porter an­dre.poyser@glean­erjm.com

UTASU has in­di­cated that the low wages of­fered to lec­tur­ers, the poor work­ing con­di­tions, and the gen­er­ally hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment con­tin­ues to make it dif­fi­cult for lec­tur­ers to re­main em­ployed to UTech, Ja­maica.

THE IN­ABIL­ITY of the Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy (UTech) to com­pen­sate its aca­demic staff com­pet­i­tively has re­sulted in a mass mi­gra­tion of some of its most highly qual­i­fied in­struc­tors.

Since Jan­uary, one de­part­ment with a nor­mal com­ple­ment of 35 has seen some 13 res­ig­na­tions. An­other aca­demic unit lost seven lec­tur­ers, five of whom had PhDs, within the space of a year.

The Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy Aca­demic Staff Union (UTASU) has said the fail­ure of the uni­ver­sity’s man­age­ment to es­tab­lish trans­parency and fair­ness in the pro­mo­tional process has has­tened the de­par­ture of many lec­tur­ers who have up­graded their qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to UTASU, many lec­tur­ers, on com­plet­ing the re­quired PhD, re­turned to work without an of­fer of pro­mo­tion and measly in­cre­ment with a $6,000 cap.

This, the unions say, is not an at­trac­tive re­turn on the in­vest­ment un­der­taken to earn a ter­mi­nal de­gree, and in­vari­ably these peo­ple leave the uni­ver­sity for bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“UTASU has in­di­cated that the low wages of­fered to lec­tur­ers, the poor work­ing con­di­tions, and the gen­er­ally hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment con­tin­ues to make it dif­fi­cult for lec­tur­ers to re­main em­ployed to UTech, Ja­maica. UTASU has in­cluded var­i­ous items in the wage and work­ing con­di­tions claim, which, if agreed, would cre­ate a more at­trac­tive workspace for lec­tur­ers,” the union said in re­sponse to ques­tions from The Gleaner.

The union has also noted that the glar­ing dis­par­ity be­tween what ad­vanced qual­i­fi­ca­tions at­tract in the cor­po­rate and pro­fes­sional work en­vi­ron­ment vs earn­ings in academia at UTech is made only worse by the fact that aca­demic salaries have been al­lowed to fall be­low mar­ket rates, while salaries of those in ad­min­is­tra­tion at the uni­ver­sity have been kept com­pet­i­tive.

PHD MIS­CON­CEP­TION

With re­gard to con­cerns about the num­ber of aca­demic staff who have earned a ter­mi­nal de­gree, the union says the fig­ure is much higher than has been re­ported.

“With a com­bined fig­ure of ap­prox­i­mately 50 per cent of the aca­demic staff (com­ple­ment of 512) cur­rently hold­ers of PhDs or in var­i­ous stages of com­ple­tion of PhD stud­ies, the aca­demic staff is ac­tive in the pur­suit of ter­mi­nal de­grees,” the union added.

The union fur­ther ar­gued that it was a mis­con­cep­tion that all uni­ver­sity aca­demic staff must have PhDs, not­ing that “many of the dis­ci­plines of­fered at UTech do not have PhD as the cap­stone qual­i­fi­ca­tion but have pro­fes­sional equiv­a­len­cies, and so the master chefs, the ar­chi­tects, the lawyers, the phar­ma­cists, the ac­coun­tants, the quan­tity sur­vey­ors, etc, would not be counted among this num­ber”.

UTASU also said that the work­load that aca­demic staff have to carry makes it dif­fi­cult for them to com­plete their PhDs.

“UTASU has sought, without suc­cess, to con­vince the man­age­ment of the uni­ver­sity that the cur­rent work­load of lec­tur­ers mil­i­tates against pur­suit of the ter­mi­nal de­gree. The re­quired teach­ing hours at UTech are cur­rently some 25-30 per cent higher than re­quired at the uni­ver­si­ties gen­er­ally, and our clos­est neigh­bour specif­i­cally,” the union said, re­fer­ring to the Uni­ver­sity of the West Indies.

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