UTEB, UB come to agreement

The Union of Tertiary Educators of The Bahamas (UTEB) signed a new industrial agreement with the University of The Bahamas (UB) at the university’s campus yesterday after months of tension over the negotiations.

The last agreement expired in 2017.

UTEB members held demonstrations at campus grounds last month, expressing their frustration with the lengthy negotiations and their outrage with the university’s proposal of an 82-cents per-day increase.

The new agreement covers the 2017-2020 period, meaning that another agreement will be needed for the 2020-2025 period – which both UTEB President Daniel Thompson and UB President Dr. Rodney Smith agreed both parties would like to begin negotiating “immediately”.

“We may not have gotten everything we wanted, but we got what we needed,” Thompson told reporters yesterday.

“While, as in any negotiation, no one party is ever fully satisfied that they got everything they wanted… the membership decided that now is the time to move, because it allows what we refer to as completion.”

In November, UTEB had made the proposal of a $3,500 lump sum payment and seven percent salary increase for its members, which UB had said it was unable to meet.

With the current 2017-2020 agreement, UTEB members will have a new salary scale “so that there’s an automatic increase as of July of this year” of 3.3 percent overall just for this year, Thompson confirmed.

“However, we anticipate that as we enter into the second stage of our negotiation, we can now plan long-term increases,” he said in reference to the upcoming 2020-2025 negotiations.

UTEB members are also now able to hold political positions while retaining their employment, a new feature which Thompson highlighted as being a crucial part of the agreement.

“Salary is one aspect, and a very important aspect, but then the fact that our members now can engage in political activities and still keep their jobs, that’s a very significant aspect.

“I want the public to really understand and appreciate the implication of that.

“In the past, our members who have engaged in political activity, they’d have to take a leave of absence or leave the institution – especially if they were successful.

“Now we’re saying that if you are successful and you become a legislator, whether the upper or lower house, we’re saying that your contribution to the academy becomes even more valuable,” Thompson stated.

Particular mention was made of Fort Charlotte MP Mark Humes, a UB assistant professor whom Smith light-heartedly suggested could “return to duties”.

Asked if UTEB anticipates encountering difficulties with the upcoming 2020-2025 agreement, Thompson said that there are “ups and downs” in any negotiations, but that he is unable to predict what may happen.

“I can’t guarantee that there won’t be battles along the way,” he said.

“I can’t guarantee and I’m sure the president (Smith) is aware of that.

“But, you know, a union has to do what a union has to do.”

He added, “But there is mutual respect, nonetheless.”

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