FIX­ING UTECH We are hurt­ing

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - An­dré Poyser Staff Re­porter an­dre.poyser@glean­erjm.com

THE UNIVER­SITY of Tech­nol­ogy Aca­demic Staff Union (UTASU) has said its mem­bers have suf­fered tremen­dously un­der what it has de­scribed as a pro­longed pe­riod of poor man­age­ment at the na­tional univer­sity.

The union has said that the aca­demic staff at The Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy (UTech) op­er­ate in less-than-favourable phys­i­cal con­di­tions with­out up­dated and ef­fi­cient tech­nol­ogy sup­port.

UTASU Pres­i­dent Joan Lawla ex­plained to The Gleaner that the ab­sence of a con­clu­sion to pro­tracted wage ne­go­ti­a­tions has re­sulted in con­tin­ued low wages, which are some 60 per cent be­low those earned at the neigh­bour­ing Univer­sity of the West Indies.

The union pres­i­dent also pointed out that the aca­demic de­vel­op­ment of staff has been blighted, as par­tic­i­pa­tion in con­fer­ences and other aca­demic en­deav­ours has been cur­tailed.

“The list of prob­lems af­fect­ing the aca­demic staff is un­der­stated,” she said in re­sponse to ques­tions from The Gleaner.

Lawla, who was also speak­ing on be­half of the two other staff unions at UTech, in re­buff­ing the no­tion that the unions have been ob­struc­tion­ist in their role on the univer­sity coun­cil, noted that the unions have no power through force of num­bers or veto.

“We are eas­ily out­voted. It is only by moral sua­sion or ask­ing that coun­cil de­ci­sions are aligned to the statutes govern­ing the univer­sity that we are able to

UTech staff say poor con­di­tions at univer­sity neg­a­tively af­fect­ing them

in­flu­ence the man­age­ment of the in­sti­tu­tion to act in what we re­gard as the univer­sity’s best in­ter­est,” she said.

POOR GOV­ER­NANCE

Ac­cord­ing to Lawla, it is the view of the unions that the man­age­ment of the univer­sity has not been act­ing ju­di­ciously, a view they ex­pressed in a news­pa­per ad­ver­tise­ment from as far back as 2013.

“Of note, how­ever, and as was stated in our 2013 Gleaner ad, is the fact that the man­age­ment of the univer­sity con­tin­ues, even now, to com­mit fla­grant breaches of good gov­er­nance in sev­eral ar­eas, in­clud­ing their em­ploy­ment and pro­mo­tion prac­tices. We are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing many of the same vi­o­la­tions which were cited be­fore 2013. De­spite the sec­ond­ment of the then pres­i­dent and the ap­point­ment of new mem­bers on coun­cil ... many mem­bers of the flawed regime have been re­tained in ex­ec­u­tive man­age­ment and not much has changed,” she added.

Turn­ing her at­ten­tion to the pre­car­i­ous fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion at UTech, which was ex­posed dur­ing the in­sti­tu­tion’s ap­pear­ance be­fore the Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee of Par­lia­ment, Lawla ar­gued that the unions have been vin­di­cated, as they have long been rais­ing alarm about what they see as the un­vi­able ex­pan­sion of the univer­sity with­out the proper fi­nan­cial sup­port.

2013 IN­VES­TI­GA­TION

Point­ing to the 2013 in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the af­fairs of the univer­sity, which she says high­lighted a lack of trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity on the part of the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion un­der Pro­fes­sor Er­rol Mor­ri­son as pres­i­dent, and Ed­ward Seaga as chan­cel­lor, she said, “Apart from ad­dress­ing those with ur­gency, we ex­pect the univer­sity to ei­ther re­verse the many ap­point­ments and ad­di­tions that have over­bur­dened the univer­sity’s present fi­nan­cial ca­pa­bil­ity and to se­cure from the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties ad­di­tional bud­getary sup­port to make the ex­pan­sion vi­able.”

The union pres­i­dent lamented the fact that UTech con­tin­ues to be with­out strong eth­i­cal lead­er­ship, point­ing out that cur­rent Chan­cel­lor Ed­ward Seaga has presided over a poorly planned ex­pan­sion pro­gramme since his time as pro-chan­cel­lor.

“A range of bad in­vest­ments, poorly thought-out man­age­ment de­ci­sions, part­ner­ships, e.g. UTech-JIM (Ja­maica In­sti­tute of Man­age­ment) and MOUs, neg­a­tively af­fected UTech, Ja­maica’s fi­nan­cial stand­ing dur­ing this pe­riod. The univer­sity is still reel­ing from the ef­fects of a se­ries of court ac­tions and a much-de­layed in­fras­truc­tural de­vel­op­ment project, which raises ques­tions re­gard­ing the cap­i­tal struc­ture of the in­sti­tu­tion,” she said.

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