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UTech lecturers agree ‘temporary’ end to strike

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY
Senior staff reporter
dunkleywillisa@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

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Following several hours of meeting with Ministry of Labour and Social Security officials yesterday, unionised workers at the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech) who have been on strike since October 25 over outstanding retroactive payments have reached an agreement which will see them returning to the classrooms “temporarily”.


“In good faith, UTASU (University of Technology Jamaica Academic Staff Union) has agreed to a temporary resumption of work, beginning Wednesday, November 6, 2019,” UTASU President Lebert Langley told the Jamaica Observer last night.


“This is to give the management time to secure additional funding towards the payment of retroactive sums owed to us for the period 2018/9,” he indicated.


He said there will be another meeting at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, scheduled for Monday, November 11, 2019 at 10:00 am, at which there will be formalisation of any agreement reached.
Last evening, a relieved UTech Students' Union President Khalil Hutchinson told the Observer that the body was happy that the strike had 'ended', but would have been more at ease if it was not a temporary situation. Hutchinson said plans were to use social media to alert students to the development, as the load shedding exercise by light and power company Jamaica Public Service had left the university's main campus in Papine, St Andrew without power.


“We will have to rely heavily on word of mouth,” he said.


The strike has seen lecturers staying out of the classrooms during negotiations between the management of UTech and the union, after the Government pulled out last Friday, having made what it said was its last offer, which UTASU rejected.


The education ministry offered to pay staff $400 million of the funds owed to them for 2018/19, pledging $250 million from the ministry's existing budget, while the remaining $150 million would be funded by UTech.


The $400 million is in addition to $1 billion approved for the university in the supplementary estimates earlier in October. That was, however, rejected by UTASU on Friday afternoon, indicating that the offer was incomplete and reflected no commitment to pay the full amounts outstanding.


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