UWI teachers threaten to withhold exam papers again as negotiations fall apart

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UWI teachers threaten to withhold exam papers again as negotiations fall apart

If negotiations between staff at the St Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies and the government fail to move forward, final exams could be in jeopardy.

This as the West Indies Group of University Teachers (WIGUT) rejected the government’s two per cent offer five months ago and since then the negotiation process has been falling apart.

WIGUT President Dr Indira Rampersad said the more than 500 members of the union are already pushing back.

Exam papers are due in three weeks and exams are set to start in December.

Earlier this year, the union spent the months of March and April in protest, calling for a remit from the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) and threatening to withhold mid-term exam papers at the time.
By April 23rd, the two per cent remit was given to WIGUT. However, by May 4th it was rejected.

The union then met with campus principal Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine on May 26th to request an improved offer. For weeks the union said it got no feedback and wrote a letter requesting an update on July 17.

Dr Rampersad said: “In July we didn’t hear anything so we wrote her and she said she asked the Minister of Finance for a meeting because there was apparently a tussle between the Minister, the CPO and the Ministry of Education about who was really in charge.”

The union was told that as Corporation Sole, Finance Minister Colm Imbert oversees the process, though the campus executive in the past has liaised with the Minister of Education. WIGUT was also told that Imbert was committed to a meeting in August.

Dr Rampersad added: “But, as it was August and it was the Local Government Election, and we know what a busy time that was for political parties and there was no meeting between the principal and the minister.”

“There are a series of measures implemented including a shutdown of the campus and all operations like the Library, bookstore, marketing and communications, student services, facilities management, offices of the principal and deputy.”

Dr Rampersad said: “There are going to be final exams starting in December and many of the exam papers are due in November and we have also called for staff to not participate in graduation and prize-giving activities at the end of the month.”

The WIGUT president said she is aware of the consequences of their actions on the student population but pointed out that staff have not been able to cope with the rising cost of living. She referenced the council’s latest report which showed that the campus has recorded a 22 per cent attrition from academics.