Written by Pa Nderry M’Bai

The Vice President of University of The Gambia Staff Association Faculty Dr. Essa Touray, who is leading a UTG industrial strike action says they won’t return to work until their demands are met by The Gambian government. Part of the striking UTG Staff Faculty Association demands include: To dissolve the existing council and reconstitute a new council with new members; To make sure that they set up a staff committee after the composition of the council, so, that the process of the appointment or selection of a Vice Chancellor could be transparent; For them to pay the arrears of the seventy percent increase on our housing allowance, Dr. Touray told Freedom Newspaper.

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Dr. Touray has accused Dr. Badara Joof, the Minister for Higher Ministry Education of being responsible for the current indefinite sit down strike. He says Joof has been using his office to settle scores with the UTG Staff Association.

“We will not go back to work until they implement all what we are demanding. Sedia Jatta represented the National Assembly committee, the Secretary General was sent by the President, Badara Joof refused to come. Two of his Permanent Secretaries and Directors were there. We signed a resolution that the council would be dissolved, and they would reconstitute a new council with new members, Badara Joof because of his person and his interest materially, he bypassed the Secretary General and went to the President because the President know he is not the expert in higher education and management, so, Badara, actually manipulated the condition and presented wrong persons, the same person to the members, that is a deception,” Dr. Touray remarked.

The UGT  Faculty strikers have ignored a high court order restraining them from going ahead with the planned strike. Dr. Touray says the current conditions at the UTG isn’t conducive to allow them to continue working.

“We would want to make sure that structures are in order well before we consider ourselves as a member, staff members of that institution. So, once structures are not in order, and they are not actually structured in accordance with the laws and the policies, we don’t mind losing our salaries, for we will not go to work until whatever we are demanding is implanted. You have to understand that you cannot impose a council. Somebody who served in the council for five years, you are using them to come back, to come back for what? In fact, you want to manipulate them in order to accept the resources of the university,” the UGT history professor told me in a phone interview on Wednesday.

Professor Pierre Gomez issued a statement on late Wednesday evening, accusing the UGT Faculty Staff Association of organizing an unlawful strike action.

“The strike action called for Wednesday 15 September 2021, contravenes the provisions of the Labour laws,” Prof. Gomez stated.

Gomez also says staffers who failed to show up to work won’t be paid.

“The UTG adopts a “No work, No Pay” policy with immediate effect; any member of staff who fails to report for duty on sit-down strike will not be paid salary and other allowances for the period of absence,” he added.

Reacting to Prof. Gomez’s statement, Dr. Touray said it is not within Prof. Gomez’s role to issue such a statement. He has accused Gomez of overstepping his bounds. He also rubbished Gomez’s claims regarding the legitimacy of their current Executive.

“Our legitimacy cannot be questioned and a person who did not attend our congress cannot actually, he is not the very person, who can question our legitimacy.  We are legitimate because he is talking about Alieu Gibba, it is the congress, it is the university faculty and the staff, who believe that, who have actually hope and they trust Alieu Gibba and they said that  Alieu should continue to serve them, and Alieu actually informed them that he could not do it alone, what he can do is if the constitution mandate him to do that, that is the time he will do that.  But in this situation what we need to understand, people had to call a congress in order to amend  part of the provision of our constitution and it was amended and Alieu was given a legitimate right to stand and in fact he did not have any opposition, he was acting unopposed. Most of us, we are unopposed. I was unopposed, Alieu was unopposed, others are unopposed except the Secretary General,” Touray remarked.

The UTG Vice Chancellor went on leave as soon as the strike action begun. Touray says that Vice Chancellor’s leave was illegal, and it would be wrong for anyone to occupy his vacant seat at this time.

Meanwhile Prof. Gomezs says the timing of the UTG strike was wrong and a legislation should be passed to discourage such illegal strikes.

“The Attorney General and Minister of Justice through the Minister of Higher Education Research, Science and Technology be requested to promulgate Regulations for the Tertiary and Higher Education Act 2016, that give university students protection from the effects of industrial action by any category of staff association,” Prof. Gomez remarked.

Dr. Touray disagrees.

“Why is he saying that the timing is wrong, it is not wrong. You have to understand that this man, is also talking and challenging the request of the congress, in the sense that, you have to understand that in the university of The Gambia Act,  the position of the Vice Chancellor should be advertised one year before the expiry date of the incumbent. These people deliberately ignore that, and the minister and the university authorities deliberately ignore that so that there will be a condition, they will create a condition where somebody can be imposed as an acting.  So, that is why we told them that since you deliberately failed to do this thing in accordance with the constitution, we want to make sure that the advertisement should be six months now since you left the other six months, nobody will be acting. So, the timing is very correct,” Dr. Touray argued.

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