The Union of Tertiary Educators of The Bahamas(UTEB) yesterday demonstrated in front of The University of The Bahamas (UB), accusing the administration of union busting and warned that if they do not negotiate in good faith on their new industrial agreement, students may not receive their grades at the end of the semester.
“The administration continues to flout the laws, policies and practices applying to the institution and has declared openly that the signed and registered industrial agreement, 2012-2017, which they intentionally failed to renegotiate has expired, is no longer binding on UB,” said Dr. Erecia Hepburn, membership secretary of UTEB.
“Negotiations for a new industrial agreement began eight months late on February 19, 2018 and were suspended by UTEB on June 20, 2018, in an attempt to get a legal interpretation when the university refused to negotiate in good faith.
“UB’s position, which is against all labor practices, has been that more than 50 percent of our current industrial agreement falls under the purview of the Academic Senate created under the UB Act and they were not prepared to renegotiate these clauses.
“…Their refusal to discuss any financial matters with UTEB and the autocratic style of their lead negotiator have contributed greatly to the breakdown of negotiations.
“UTEB has always encouraged UB to work in a collaborative and consultative fashion, towards common institutional and national goals.
“Instead, and particularly since the arrival of the new regime, the administrative officers, including the president, provost and assorted vice-presidents, have decided that they do not have to follow the law and have taken a heavy-handed approach to management – including the transfer of faculty personnel matters from human resources to the Office of the Provost.
“In most instances, their actions have been to totally ignore the current registered industrial agreement for faculty and it is wreaking havoc, negatively impacting faculty and creating a toxic work environment.”
Hepburn said the union wants UB to “come to the table and actually negotiate with us. There are several issues that need to be addressed. There’s no way we are just going to let the act, which has the Academic Senate, that has more persons than faculty, dictate what has to go on with faculty; it’s ridiculous.”
When asked what will happen if their demands are not met, Hepburn said, “Let’s hope people get their grades, that’s all I could say. We could hope.”
“…Everybody knows this is the end of the semester, so they have, I guess, until December 7.”
UTEB also outlined other concerns with the university, including several trade disputes dating back to 2016.
Those concerns include the delays in effecting timely promotion exercises, the appointment of part-time faculty, the failure to hold regular meetings of the Professional Leave Committee, the failure to convene Faculty Development Committee (FDC) meetings, violations in faculty overload payment, the implementation of an online student feedback forms, the failure to provide UTEB with agreed reports, the university neglecting to take steps to address issues affecting health and wellness, and the inadequate remediation of UB’s physical plant, among other issues.
Last night, UB sent a statement in response to the demonstration.
It said the university “will endeavor to maintain and foster positive, peaceful and productive industrial relations with all unions represented at the university”.
“The University of The Bahamas Act 2016 is the institution’s new operational framework and it is the university’s new constitution. The act designates a system of shared governance between an independent board of trustees and a newly constituted Academic Senate. Article 7 of the act confirms the Academic Senate as ‘…the academic authority’ with full responsibility for maintaining the academic standards, regulation and superintendence of the education of students,” UB said.
“The Board of Trustees has the general direction and control over the conduct of the affairs of the university including, but not limited to, matters involving the rights and responsibilities of the university’s faculty members. Both the Academic Senate and Board of Trustees are assigned specific powers, functions, duties and responsibilities under the act.
“All Industrial Agreements to be negotiated by the University will have to be guided by and aligned with the new University of The Bahamas Act. All necessary procedural and substantive provisions as stipulated in the Industrial Relations Act regarding collective bargaining agreements will be adopted as relevant to the higher education context.”
Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications