THREE University of Zambia unions have resolved to go on go-slow until their gratuities are paid.
The unions are represented by the University of Zambia Allied and Workers’ Union (UNZAAWU), the University of Zambia Professional Staff Union (UNZAPROSU) and the University of Zambia Lecturers and Researchers’ Union (UNZALARU).
Speaking to Journalists, Friday, UNZAPROSU president Michael Kaluba said the university had been mismanaged and that the unions would continue with the go slow until their demands were met.
“We had a joint meeting as leaders to reflect on the wrong things that are going on at UNZA. We are not happy with how this university is being run, it is being mismanaged. The government released K200 million to pay retirees their terminal benefits and to pay serving employees of UNZA, their gratuities. We have members of staff that have served UNZA and they are owed gratuities for the last 16 years and we are saying can these people be paid. The government released K200 million and this management in its wisdom just decided to pay retirees leaving people that are owed gratuities unpaid. And we are saying that act was wrong. This money must be paid, if it is not paid, we will continue with go slow until our demands are addressed. And for heaven’s sake, K200 million is not a lot of money which this government can fail to make available so that these people are paid,” Kaluba said.
“Let them make another K200 million available to pay serving employees their gratuities. Before the money was released, we had an understanding that this money should pay retirees up to 2016 and clear gratuities up to 2013. But when the money came, they changed the goal post and management said they will just pay the retirees. So we are saying since they seem to be prioritizing retirees, maybe while we are on go slow, the retirees can come and work. If they don’t meet our demands, we will continue our go slow. Labour is a commodity and it must be paid for.”
Kaluba said government should review funding to Public Service universities.
“The budget was not very clear on payment of retirees because all the talk was ‘so much money has been reserved to pay retirees under the public service’, now for UNZA, it is not clear whether we are under that because the public service has got their own rules and regulations on how people qualify. When you look at the yellow book, there is no provision for universities. Let the government review funding to Public Service universities, you cannot make such a big improvement going to Constituency Development Funds and you only give a university a K3 Million. What are we trying to develop? Are we trying to develop human capital or are we trying to develop something else?” questioned Kaluba.
And UNZAAWU general secretary Mupuna Moonga demanded that their conditions of services should be reviewed every 12 months.
“We work regularly under conditions that are not valid. UNZA is not a small enterprise, this is not a small farm. It is a big enterprise whose conditions for the workers are regulated by protocol that regulates every corporate entity. But as it is, we are working outside of those norms. Our conditions of services should be reviewed every 12 months. Meaning that working any other way, you will be doing things illegally. As things stand, management is doing things illegally. They are putting us to work with conditions of service that have expired,” said Mupuna.
Meanwhile, UNZALARU president Dr Andrew Phiri said the university had become autocratic.
“We should not have a government that brings conditionalities to the things that you have worked for, it is unacceptable. The law says what you are enjoying now should not be watered down. But what have we seen in the act? This year, they have quickly amended the Higher Education Act and kicked out the unions. The idea is you and me should only be seen and not heard. Your voice should become useless. Management has abrogated its role to the ministry. UNZA has become like a parastatal. They can not make decisions until they get directives from the Ministry of Education. Is this how you want to run the university? But you have a management that works at the whim of the ministry,” Dr Phiri said.
“And now the university has become autocratic. Very few of you have come here, many of you are fearing. The university is supposed to be a place of freedom. And you must have a right to protest. You cannot have a university and management that want to limit your benefits. This has been the worst management that looks at anti-worker conditions of service.”
He lamented that their engagements with government and management yielded no results.
“Should we wait until we are dead to get what we want? We have engaged the last five years to reason both with government and management and the so-called caretakers’ councils to see that your interests are safeguarded, what has it led us to? Zero! The past five years if you see the take home value that you have, it is nothing to talk about,” said Dr Phiri.
The unions have since called for the removal of the university’s top management led by Professor Luke Mumba for allegedly mismanaging the university for the past five years.