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Wage talks affecting UWI students, Madam PM
Open letter to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar:
On behalf of the student body here at UWI, St Augustine, I would like to express best wishes and blessings to you and all others charged with making this country and our world a better place. As small as we are, we have a big say in the direction of our lives. Congratulations also on your first year as political leader of the United National Congress, a year that has been historic and a landmark in many ways.
I write therefore seeking your needed intervention in a matter that has dragged on for months in this country—the wage negotiations of tens of thousands of staff around the country. It is my duty to represent the 16,000 students here at the St Augustine campus, who continue to be adversely affected by the industrial action of OWTU-represented staff at the campus. We were also victim to similar action by Wigut, which eventually settled.
The attempts of the OWTU-represented staff and the union to seek better remuneration packages have continued into 2011, and it is to this effect I now seek your much needed intervention. This request is being made on behalf of the 16,000 students who I represent, with the hope that your involvement could accelerate nego- tiations to a resolution. I write to you as a representative of the student body of the UWI, an institution you are known to treasure, to ask that you address this issue of national and regional significance.
I call on you, Prime Minister, to settle these outstanding wage negotiations affecting so many all over the country. Remunerate the workers at the level they deserve and begin to build a new cultural psyche of innovation, efficiency, accountability and entrepreneurship. The Government must lead this charge, firstly by reaffirming commitments made to its citizens, by planning technically, sustainably, creatively, and by never being afraid to stand up to that responsibility. Paul J Meyer says, “Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.”
The students are at this stage in a very tense mood. Earlier this week, there was disruption to the usual student services in this crucial period of student registration. I have very legitimate fears: If this industrial action continues and possibly even worsens, things may become violent on the campus.
Last year, I had to personally restrain a group of students from venting their frustrations, but I fear that if the students continue to be held hostage, the situation will worsen. I therefore call on you, Madame Prime Minister, to alleviate this situation before it worsens. I wish to quote the following from the UWI Code of Principles and Responsibilities for Students: “You have a right to the resources necessary for the attainment of your learning objectives, including, but not limited to, timely, accurate and reliable information on all academic matters affecting students; to access information on campus services and facilities without undue difficulty; to adequate instruction; to express opinion on the performance of lecturers and the quality of teaching; to receive accurate information about examination procedures; to be fairly examined; to receive timely examination review and results; and to receive as far as is practicable explanations of reasons for failure in order to be able to plan and accomplish your educational and career objectives.”
The Guild of Students will act to defend the rights of the students in this serious situation, even if it means expressing our frustrations to Parliament or by peacefully sitting in your driveway each morning. You are not at fault, but you wield the tools to bring closure to this situation. I appeal at this time to the student body for calm and patience. We must take this opportunity to mend the disunity between the staff and students, and at the same time between our public servants and general citizens. The productivity of the nation depends on a concerted and inspired human resource.
UWI, St Augustine
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