USM board did not meet with union and university staff


The staff of the University of St. Martin (USM) has been unable to meet with the university’s board of directors since joining WIFOL on December 1, 2008, said Rhoda Arrindell on Thursday.

"The union WIFOL has made two meeting requests on the staff’s behalf to the university board headed by Dr. Lockie Johnson," said Arrindell, a popular USM lecturer and language division head.

"It is vital that we discuss, clarify, and involve the staff in rectifying aspects of the USM organizational structure."

"It is most important for us to secure the overdue financial benefits for the staff. There needs to be some form of a pension plan, a more developed medical insurance, some form of life insurance, and a vacation plan," said Arrindell.

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"Another major point the staff wants to discuss is the operational structure as this has been a major cause of the long-running challenges, lack of communication, and lack job security for the workers between USM and its full-time staff," said Arrindell.

"The request from our union to discuss the operational structure is directly related to key staff questions and insecurities. For example, what is the legal structure of responsibility and job execution, who’s in charge, who is responsible, and ‘how the university running’ when it comes to the day-to-day operations of our island’s only university?" said Arrindell.

"All of the agenda points are directly interrelated to job security for the staff and providing a far better educational service and university experience for our students and the people of our nation," said Arrindell.

Arrindell and Michel Chance were key to securing the pro-union vote along with other colleagues, for the first time since USM was founded in 1989.

"We are today questioning if the board is continuing the non-communication and delay tactics. The delays and non-response, and in some cases disrespect, were also key to bringing in the union to protect our rights and better the working conditions at USM for current and future workers," said Arrindell.

The board did not meet on January 15 at 3:30 pm as requested with the staff and WIFOL. There are plans to convene another meeting on Monday, January 19, said Arrindell. That meeting would be between the board, the management teams, and the union, to work out the "groundrules" for a rescheduled general meeting, which did not take place on Thursday.

"We will also be monitoring for any subtle or open intimidation of the unionized staff by management or the board, such as firing or laying off, e-staffing with family members of board members, and salary obstacles, while at the same taking on new staff from the USA, some beyond the retirement age, to fill the place of the St. Maarten employee or laid-off staff member," said Arrindell.