UNZALARU secretary general Dr Kelvin Mambwe says workers at the institution have decided to sue UNZA management for failing to pay workers’ salaries on time.

In an interview, Dr Mambwe said the union had initially tried to report the matter to the police but officers refused to receive their statement and referred them to court.

“No, we didn’t report the matter to the police. That was what we had planned but I think the police might have been scared or something, they simply said ‘no we wouldn’t take a statement’. We tried to report that before lunch yesterday (Monday) at Chelstone Police Station; they were telling us ‘no it is a court issue’. You know, the way the law has been couched, it criminalizes the act of failing to pay a salary but it appears that the police are not aware that failure to pay someone a salary is a criminal offence,” Dr Mambwe said.

“They have broken the law, the contract has been broken. So, we will take them to court on this matter. But the employment code act where you read section 66 and you read alongside it [section] 135 of the Employment Code Act, it criminalizes failure to pay a salary. So the only recourse is to go to court.”

When asked when UNZALARU was likely to file a law suit, Dr Mambwe said the union was still making some consultations.

“I am not sure if it is week because we have another pending case were we are applying for a judicial review regarding our case the revocation of the recognition agreement. So we have to see how we can do it if we are going to do it concurrently or we do it after we have done the judicial review case. We still trying to analyze, but of coarse the immediate one is the judicial review which I am hopeful will be done by tomorrow. Then thereafter, we can think of suing management for failing to honor the contracts,” Dr Mambwe said.

“There is no hope that we be paid this week; that is how the situation is. There has been an engagement with government but there is nothing at all there have no money; the government has no money that is what we have been told. The best thing they should just close the institution if they have no money. They have no priority on education so what do you expect them to do? If they had priority on education, every thing would have been okay so they don’t just have priority on education! They don’t care what happens to our children and the future.”

He said workers were suffering without pay.

“There may not be a go slow, but when people have not been paid, you don’t expect things to be normal at all! Even if we have not declared a go slow, formally, our members are finding it extremely difficult to come for work because they have not been paid their January salaries. Everything in the city runs with money so if you don’t have money, you have to find alternatives ways of…I mean, if you have an employer, who doesn’t pay you, you need to find alternative ways of finding resources to sustain yourself, otherwise you will die! You see, we need to feed our children; we have to pay rentals; we need to pay electricity bills; we need to buy fuel and even if we got paid December salaries, it is not possible that we can use that money up to February; that is not possible at all!” said Dr Mambwe.

“What is happening at the University is that a number of our members are finding it extremely difficult to report for work because they have not been paid. So, there is normalcy at the University, not until people are paid their salaries will you see normalcy return to the University. If nothing happens now, students will be agitated after feeling the pressure of not receiving the service that they have come to receive. So, that is the situation we find ourselves in.”

Meanwhile, acting UNZA registrar Rodgers Phiri confirmed in an internal memo yesterday that salaries would not be paid this week.

“Further to our earlier communication to the University of Zambia members of staff dated 6th February 2020, salaries are not ready as funding has not yet been received from government and there is no possibility that funding would be ready this week. However, management is working closely with the relevant authorities to ensure that salaries are paid as soon as funding is received. We regret the inconvenience caused,” stated Phiri.