UTech agreement guides staff involved in politics

A document that formed the wage and fringe benefits agreement between the Jamaica Government, and the University of Technology Jamaica Staff Union (UTASU), for the 2015 to 2017 contract period, gave clear guidelines regarding how matters involving staff and their desire to engage in politics ought to be handled.

The matter has resurfaced following the issue that surrounds the recent revelation of the secondment of the university’s chief internal auditor turned Member of Parliament, Dwight Sibblies, to its Faculty of Law.

The eight-point agreement remains in force in the agreement for the relevant period now, Jamaica Observer sources have said.

Item 40 of the agreement reads:

“UTech Jamaica shall continue to apply the following approach/principles in granting time off to members of staff with, or without pay, in respect of holding public office.

“(1) Application for permission to engage in election campaign and, if elected, to hold public office or to accept appointment to the Senate, a Statutory Board or other public body should be processed through the employee’s head of department or senior director, human resources and administration for final approval by the president.

“(2) An employee elected a Member of Parliament, or appointed a minister of state or parliamentary secretary, as well as in some circumstances the executive chairman, will be placed on the inactive payroll.

“(3) Employees who are allowed leave of absence without pay may maintain their benefit plans by monthly payments for the period of absence.

“(4) If at the end of the first term of office the employee:

“(a) Does not renew his/her candidature, the university will effect a transfer to the active payroll, and if unable to reassign him/her to the position previously held, efforts will be made to arrange placement in a similar position.

“(b) Renews his/her candidature, he/she will be continued on the inactive payroll. If re-elected, the case will be reviewed to determine whether or not leave of absence should be continued. If not re-elected, the provisions at (a) above will apply.

“(5) An employee appointed a Member of the Senate Statutory Board, or other public body, will be allowed reasonable time off to attend meetings. In normal circumstances, the employee will be permitted to attend up to four meetings per month in the case of the Senate, and up to two meetings per month in the case of other bodies.

“(6) An employee elected a Parish Councillor will be allowed reasonable time off to attend meetings of the council. In normal circumstances such time off will be restricted to a maximum of four meetings per month.

“(7) The positions of Member of the Senate, and Member of Statutory Boards are generally unpaid: therefore, where an employee is allowed time for meetings, he/she should not suffer loss of salary for time so spent.

“(8) The university’s work takes precedence over civic duties in these cases and, where it becomes evident that there is a clear conflict between those duties and the requirements of the job, the employee may be asked to take leave of absence WITHOUT PAY during his/her term of office.

“Consistent with the university’s policies, employees shall not imply university endorsement or use its resources in campaign activities or literature. Employees campaigning for or holding public office shall follow university policies regarding use of university equipment, services, facilities and property.”

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