Ray of hope for UTech students
A threat by the University of Technology Academic Staff Union (UTASU) to suspend grade entries for semester one of the current school year could be withdrawn following indications that the Ministry of Finance is ready to resume talks with the body which represents more than 300 academic staff.
In a release on Tuesday, UTASU announced that it has decided to take action in response to the Government’s failure to provide a compensation review proposal despite a request which was first sent on May 4, 2022.
“Despite repeated requests and collaborative endeavours, the Government has yet to present a formal proposal outlining a fair and equitable compensation framework. This lack of responsiveness and undue delay has left UTASU with no recourse but to take decisive action on behalf of its members. Consequently, UTASU members will suspend all grade entries for semester one 2023/4 until we receive the compensation review proposal for review and consideration.
“This decision was not taken lightly, but it is a necessary step to emphasize the urgent need for the compensation review to be completed,” said UTASU in the release in which it indicated that it remained open to continued dialogue.
On Wednesday Dr Tashieka Burris-Melville, programme leader at the Faculty of Education and Liberal Studies at UTech, told the Jamaica Observer that there was some indication that Government officials had spoken with the university’s management and may be meeting with UTASU today.
According to Burris-Melville, the hope is that the proposal will be presented.
“Once it [the proposal] is received staff members will be instructed to use the weekend to ensure that all grades are ready and released by Monday,” Burris-Melville told the Observer.
More than 10,000 students at the university would not receive their final grades for semester one in the 2023/2024 academic period if the UTASU members carry out their threat.
If students cannot access their grades, they may be unable to register for necessary modules in the upcoming semester as some modules require a pass in others completed in semester one. It would also affect students who will require their grades to begin internships.
But Melville said while the university’s staff members prioritise their students, the well-being of the academic staff must be considered.
“It is very difficult for us to demand from academics to pour from an empty cup when they are not well taken care of,” said Melville.
Discussion between the UTASU, the university management, and the Government has been on going since March 2023 but UTASU says it is among the few government-owned entities not to have the compensation of its staff reviewed.