'We are close to a solution,' UTech president assures protesters

Thursday, February 21, 2019

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — After a number of meetings with the Ministry of Finance in relation to an increase in subventions, President of the University of Technology Professor Stephen Vasciannie says the management team is close to a solution.

Professor Vasciannie told the university's students and staff, who were part of a blackout protest at the Papine-based institution yesterday, that decisions were expected to be made on Monday, February 25 in relation to the staff structure.

“I agree that UTECH deserves more but I think we should do it by negotiating, so that's what I'm encouraging, further negotiations,” the professor said as the protesters, who were dressed in black, retorted.

“We have done that many times,” a placard bearing woman exclaimed.

Sympathising with the protestors, he advised them to return to class and work.

“I want school and work to be in for the day because when I go to the meeting I don't want people to say we can't have the meeting because there is a strike going on. If there is a strike going on it has to go to the Ministry of Labour and that might set back everything. So strategically, as well as in principle, I want you to be at work today. I want to be very clear about that. I realised that you have been very patient over the years,” he said, adding that the management is on their side.

“Don't give it away by having a strike on the very day…,” he reasoned.

However, his advise fell on deaf ears as the protestors took to the streets to voice their concerns about what they said is the small government subvention to the university when compared to other institutions across the island.

UTech's students' union had issued the call to students to wear black to show their discontent with the “disregard” the Government continues to show towards the university.

According to a release from the Integrity Action Movement at the university, the issue is not that the University of the West Indies gets the most per-capita subvention; it is that the UTech, when compared to other institutions, is ranked near the bottom of the chart.

“It is only fair that the national university of Jamaica receives more support from the Government,” the group argued.

“The issue of subvention allocations given to the institutions is one, which stems from previous years. Though promises have been made to address the situation, it still remains the same,” it said, calling on the Government to be more accountable in levelling the playing field for equal educational opportunities

Professors at the university along with their unions and officials from the Ministry of Finance met about two o'clock yesterday afternoon to discuss a way forward.

The results of that meeting have not yet been disclosed.

Racquel Porter

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