By Yankuba Jallow
Staff working at the University of the Gambia (UTG) have started a sit-down strike on Thursday in demand of welfare and related matters.
Exams were supposed to start yesterday. However, it could not proceed as planned because there are no persons to invigilate the exams process.
Those in the strike include lecturers both senior, junior and graduate assistants, cleaners, drivers, administrative staff and faculty officers among others.
The strike came after overwhelming majority of staff of the University agreed to embark on a strike at the University of The Gambia Faculty and Staff Association (UTGFSA) Extraordinary Congress 2021, dated 28th June 2021.
Only six staff voted against the strike at Congress because they wanted it to be delayed until after the students complete their exams. They indicated their support to the protest after exams so that it won’t affect the students’ examinations. Over one hundred and sixty voted in support of the strike at Congress.
The staff are demanding the Ministry of Higher Education Research Science and Technology (MOHERST) to pay the University over D150,000 as arrears in full. This amount is the outstanding payment that the Ministry owes the University from the students scholarship which remained unpaid. The staff are saying the subvention that the Government provides the University is not sufficient.
They demand the Interim Governing Council of the University be dissolved and replaced with a substantive Governing Council. This is because the current Council has been interim for four years or so.
Also, they demand for the Registrar to completely handover the UTG Human Resource Administration back to the Director of Human Resources (HR). They demanded that the Director of HR is to report to the DVC administration and/or the Vice Chancellor.
The staff also are pushing for the replacement of retired Deans or Acting Deans and Heads of Department that are heading positions in the University. It is the position of the staff that University’s conditions of service do not allow them to hold a university office.
They also want the people holding double positions at the UTG to relinquish one of them. They submit that holding of double positions in the UTG is denying potential qualified staff from applying or occupying those positions
They also push for the election of Deans and Heads of Department (HODs) at the University of The Gambia. In support of this point, the staff said the majority of the Deans and HODs are in acting capacities without confirmation. They should either be confirmed or their positions be filled
For the first time in the history of the University, the staff want a Staff Tribunal to be established at the University where each makes complaint to for recourse when their rights are violated. The establishment of the Staff Tribunal will ensure that staff rights are protected and respected, according to the staff.
They are also demanding for an independent audit of the UTG Salary Scale and grades to ensure fairness in the payments. The staff alleged that there are many inconsistencies in the salaries payments to individuals where some are paid less or more than the prescribed scales.
They want the position of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Administration & Finance to be advertised.
Finally, they want the advertisement of the Vice-Chancellor position to be put to hold until the proper procedures are followed. It has to be advertised for 12 months. They accused the University of violating their laws by not following the one year notice of vacancy. They are saying, the University only announces it for a few weeks which is contrary to their laws.
The University management described the strike as “bizarre and incomprehensible”. The management said there were no negotiations between them and the UTGFSA on any of the issues they are demanding.
The staff on strike said they are not going back until they Minister of Higher Education comes in person, representatives from the Office of the President and some lawmakers along with the staff of the University meet to discuss and make concrete agreement on their demands.