UNIVERSITY of Zambia and Allied Workers Union (UNZAAWU) has threatened to go on strike if UNZA management does not meet the demand of an eight per cent salary increment.

In an interview, UNZAAWU general secretary Michael Kaluba lamented that the cost of living was too high.

“The question of a strike looming is actually a fact. As a union, we are just trying to follow the Industrial Relations Act, which is the law that governs industrial relations in the country. We are just trying to follow the provisions. You may wish to know that we sent our demands or you can call them proposals suggesting improvement to 2021 conditions of service. We commenced the negotiations, one of the demands we sent was for management to review the salary levels for our members. Then also to review the allowances. The strike has been caused by management’s refusal to offer just a little eight percent to workers. If that is offered, the strike can be avoided,” Kaluba said.

“The collection agreement for 2020 had expired and members were working with such a collective agreement. The other fact is that it was based on that government [gave] civil servants and other employees working in quasi organisations eight percent [salary increment]. Generally, the cost of living in the country has gone high and we had proposed to management that if they could also offer us eight percent and also review the allowances. We had so many meetings, they maintained to say they were not going to offer anything.”

He said the previous meeting with management had not resulted in any positive outcome.

“After having so many meetings, they came back to us and said that they want to declare a dispute. That should be noted that the idea to declare a dispute did not come from the union, it came from management. We said okay we can declare a dispute and follow what the law says. The law says when a dispute is declared, we need to constitute a board of conciliators. So we put in place a board of conciliators which had three members. One member nominated by management, one member nominated by the union and the third member jointly nominated by the management and the union,” he said.

“So the three conciliators had several meetings with management, with ourselves and also joint meetings. But Management still stood on their stance that they are not going to offer anything. You know the arrogance which was there under PF. So, they still maintained that they are not going to offer anything. So, the board of conciliation failed to resolve the matter and the conciliation process collapsed. So, the board of conciliators wrote a report to the labour commissioner on their findings and on their recommendation.”

Kaluba said the union would hold a meeting on September 14 to decide whether workers would proceed to go on strike or not.

“According to the law, when a matter is not resolved at the conciliation stage, either parties is free to refer the matter either to court or vote for strike. Meaning workers can vote to either go on strike or not to go on strike. So, at that stage, we had a general meeting and informed our members and we are going to conduct a strike ballot on 14th September. If the majority will vote for a strike, then a strike will be in place at the University of Zambia,” said Kaluba.