You can’t just wake up today and say ‘I am firing all lecturers’ without following the procedures, says University of Zambia (UNZA) Vice Chancellor Professor Luke Mumba.

Speaking when she officiated at the 10th Anniversary and 7th Graduation Ceremony for the Zambia Catholic University in Kalulushi over the weekend, Higher Education Minister Prof Nkandu Luo wondered why vice chancellors were allowing lecturers to go on illegal go-slows.

“And I hope the vice chancellor from the Copperbelt University who is in the audience will liaise with his colleague, the vice chancellor of the University of Zambia, that government is very unhappy with the behaviour of your lecturers. How do you have a lecturer who goes on go-slow, illegally stops teaching students and we as vice chancellors and chancellors and council condone and still keep them in our institutions and pay a months’ salary to such people? If I had a way some of these lecturers were going to be history. We need to find a way and discipline our workers. Once we find the best way to discipline them, we will remain with a core group in our institutions that will give the glory that the Copperbelt University and the University of Zambia once enjoyed,” said Prof Luo.

But in an interview with News Diggers, Prof Mumba said no one has absolute powers to fire a lecturer as the process has stages to be followed.

“I think you know very well, everyone has rights in this country. People have rights according to the constitution. And unions are legally established. They have a constitution [and] we have a collective agreement with them but definitely it is our responsibility as management when we see that they are not doing things according to the constitution, according to the collective agreements, to take action. So it’s not like we are allowing it but it’s just that there are procedures. You can’t just wake up today and say ‘I am firing all lecturers’ without following the procedures. It will not do,” Prof Mumba said.

“Nobody has those absolute powers, nobody. So on our part, we’ve noted that what our colleagues are doing is against their own constitution, is against the spirit of collective bargaining [or] collective agreements which both parties signed. So we’ve taken necessary steps. We’ve reported the matter to the labour commission, and the labour commission has invited both parties to a meeting tomorrow (today). That is the only thing the Vice Chancellor can do, beyond that it cannot do. Otherwise you will be going against the law, you know there are procedures for everything. People have got rights and you have to deal with matters in a very sensitive way. I think that’s how it works.”

He said his office could dispense disciplinary action against the lecturers.

Vice chancellors don’t have the powers to just fire anyone, but we can take disciplinary action. And what we have started doing is steps towards that direction. I don’t want to pre-empty anything but all I can say is that the collective agreements provides that if there is a problem with either party, we have to engage. We have to discuss and engage and if we haven’t agreed, the matter can be taken to the next step. There is senate, there is council, there is the minister, but all these steps have not been taken. So that’s not the spirit in which we co-exist,” said Prof Mumba.

“And the law doesn’t provide for a go-slow and there is a process in which staff is supposed to go on strike. There are procedures that are stipulated. So all those procedures have not been followed. So as far as management is concerned, what our friends have done is against the law, it’s against their own constitution, is against the spirit of collective bargaining and that is why we have referred the matter to the labour commission who oversees all the collective agreements in this country between employers and employees.”