Government, through the Ministry of Labour, has terminated the recognition agreement between the University of Zambia (UNZA) and the University of Zambia Researchers and Lecturers Union (UNZALARU), due to “unbridled insults” from the union.
At a media briefing on January 6, UNZALARU secretary general Dr Kelvin Mambwe said only idiots could vote for the ruling Patriotic Front.
Arising from this, UNZA management wrote to the labour commissioner, requesting that the union’s recognition agreement be terminated.
And in a letter dated February 7, addressed to the UNZA Registrar and Dr Mambwe, acting labour commissioner Mukamasole Kasanda informed the duo of the ministry’s decision.
“Reference is made to an application made by the University of Zambia (UNZA) Management to terminate the Recognition Agreement between the UNZA Management and UNZALARU. Following this application and in line with the provisions of the Law, my Office convened a meeting to hear the request on 22nd January, 2020. The purpose of the meeting was to establish facts on the matter before making a decision on the request. Having heard the parties in the said meeting above, the Ministry observed that this was not the first time that the parties have been before the Office of the Labour Commissioner on similar matters. I wish to remind you of a similar incident which happened in September 2018 and the Labour Commissioner’s final determination of the matter as contained in the letter dated 1st November 2018. In this letter, the Labour Commissioner rejected an application from UNZA Management to have the Recognition Agreement between UNZA Management and UNZALARU terminated. The reason why that decision was made by the Ministry was purely on the basis that the parties agreed to reconcile their differences. However, in the same letter UNZALARU was given a last warning and was accordingly advised to desist from engaging in any future illegal activities that contravened the Law and the Recognition Agreement between the parties,” read the letter.
“In the current submission, Management advanced two issues which they have argued that they qualify to be adequate for terminating the Recognition Agreement between UNZA Management and UNZALARU. The two being:
a) Threats as to the return of students on campus; and b) Unbridled insults on Management. Management argued that the two issues above incited industrial disharmony and had caused the relationship between UNZA Management and UNZALARU [to breakdown] irretrievably. To this end, Management cited section 6 of the Industrial and Labour Relations Act, Chapter 269 of the Laws of Zambia which provides on what the union can or/and cannot do. Further, Management also cited article 18 of the Recognition Agreement between the Union and Management of having been breached. To substantiate their case, Management did indicate that the Union was given an opportunity to exculpate itself against the above allegations that appeared in both the print and electronic media. However, following your response that Management found to be unsatisfactory, they proceeded to invoke provisions of the Amendment Act No. 8 of 2008 of the Industrial and Labour Relations Act Cap 269 of the Laws of Zambia.”
She stated that UNZALARU’s exculpatory statement was unsatisfactory.
“In the hearing meeting, the Ministry took note that the Union did agree that it had a Press Briefing on Monday 6th January 2020 and electronic clips of the press briefing was played in the meeting. The Union also agreed that print media houses had published materials arising from the Press Briefing. In particular, the MAST and Diggers Newspapers carried the stories arising from the Press Briefing. The Union also agreed that the media houses that published the materials were not asked to either correct or withdraw the statements from circulation. Further, the Union also indicated that although the print media reports were attributed to UNZALARU, UNZALARU had no control on what the print media had published and based on this, the Union did not see any reason to withdraw the remarks or indeed have them corrected by the media houses. In your written submission, your letter indicated that the Union also was of the view that the relationship between Management and the Union was strained due to a number of issues and that threats on the return of students was just an advice to Management not to bring students on campus as salaries had not been paid. Further, your letter also indicated that the alleged insults on management were just a figure of speech.
Management complained that the media statements injured their reputation and that of the institution,” Kasanda said.
“Further, the complaint on the threats on the return of students interfered with management decision making processes which had implications on management’s capacity to collect fees from students. Thus, the threats had potential to make Management contravene provisions of the Public Finance Management Act No. 1 of 2018 on collection of funds. Having heard submissions from Management and your responses to the same, and considering the basis on which the Labour Commissioner gave the last warning to the Union in November 2018, the Ministry has come to a conclusion that in both instances the Union did contravene the provisions of the Act and the Recognition Agreement. The Union was given an opportunity to exculpate itself by Management and in the hearing meeting that took place on the 22nd January, 2020. In both situations, the Ministry noted that the Union failed to successfully defend itself on the matters that Management raised against them.”
Kasanda said management’s application to terminate the recognition agreement had been approved.
“Having considered the relationship between Management and the Union over the past three years as well as the deliberations of the hearing meeting that took place on 22nd January 2020, the Ministry concluded beyond reasonable doubt that indeed the Union did violate section 6 of the Industrial and Labour relations Act chapter 269 of the law of Zambia as well as breached article 18 of the Recognition Agreement between UNZA Management and the Union. In view of the above, the Ministry wishes to inform you that the application to terminate the Recognition Agreement has been approved in accordance with section 65A (3) (a) of the Industrial and Labour Relations Act, Chapter 269 as amended by Act No. 8 of 2008 of the Laws of Zambia,” said Kasanda.