Acting Education Minister Elvis Nkandu says government has directed the University of Zambia management to pay the workers their dues in order to end the go-slow.
And Nkandu has also directed the university management to allow owing students to write their examinations but withhold their results until they clear their balances.
Hundreds of UNZA students on Tuesday protested over recent power outages, the go slow by university staff and also backed calls for the removal of vice chancellor Professor Luke Mumba.
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) recently vowed to maintain the go slow until their demands were met, among them removal of Prof Mumba and payment of gratuities.
But during a media briefing, Wednesday, Nkandu, who is also Minister of Youth, Sport and Arts, said the new dawn government had come to correct things and would be listening to complaints.
“The environment where this meeting took place was very conducive, and I want to say it is important to give management and the unions this platform. I think if we had started this in a way that we are trying, to give a platform to the union leaders and the management, maybe we wouldn’t have reached where we have reached now. As the new dawn government, I think people need to understand that we have come to correct things. So definitely whenever the unions are complaining, it’s important that they are listened to. Because one cannot just wake up and start complaining, there must be something that the union is complaining about,” he said.
Nkandu said government had directed the UNZA management to pay the workers so as to end the go-slow.
“I think as the minister had already alluded to, I think it is important for people to note that we had a very open discussion with management and the unions, and we have come to realize that yes we have some money as government that we need to pay or advance to management and management also has some money that they need to pay workers. So to this effect, we have directed the management to pay the workers so that that go-slow is done away with. And I am happy that we have agreed, from this room no employee will be on go slow and obviously the union will be able to attest to that arrangement. I am happy that from now on, our students will be given what they are supposed to be given now that there is no more go-slow,” he said.
“We also looked at some concerns that the unions have had. These are some of the issues that we will defer until the minister is back, the issue of negotiations and other things. But I am happy and I want to confess that it has been a very fruitful discussion, very constructive and also the openness that we have witnessed from both the management and the unions, I think we need to make sure that it continues in this same way.”
And Nkandu also directed the university management to allow owing students to write their examinations.
“Coming to issues that were before us, there was an issue of examinations to our students. The President has been so categorical that education is an equalizer. So we should not deny any vulnerable person to write exams. So in this issue, what we have directed the management of the University of Zambia, the main campus and also the Ridgeway, is that they should allow students to write their exams. But the management will withhold their results so that they come and pay the remaining balance. Also, we need to come up with an MOU where we need to sign before anyone writes, that ‘I can only collect these results after the payment of the remaining balance’,” said Nkandu.
“I think we have done something good to our students and they should just also assist government because these institutions use money to run, the University of Zambia for instance. They need to pay so that we continue running these institutions properly. Without money, we can’t manage to run these institutions. I think for the students, they should be aware that, that has been resolved and we don’t want to see protests forthwith because their concerns have been taken care of. Coming to the students, also there is an issue of ZESCO which has been touched by my able minister here, because that was a concern and we also want to advise them that I think that information was wrong because the ZESCO do not even intend to load shed the University of Zambia especially that they are having exams. I think that also has been resolved.”
And University of Zambia vice chancellor Professor Luke Mumba said the university would oblige to government’s policies.
“Indeed we have had challenges, tensions with the trade unions in the university and that matter has been resolved. I think it’s been a question of the new dawn government, new policies. And we have to align to the new policies. It’s as simple as that. The university operates under the government of the day and if the policies have changed; we are obliged to do likewise. So indeed again with the case of the students, we have resolved that matter, the students will be communicated to. In fact, some of the students have been communicated to at Ridgeway campus that a resolution has been made that they write exams, we will withhold the results. That is what has been resolved,” said Prof Mumba.
Meanwhile, UNZALARU president Andrew Phiri pledged the union’s allegiance to continuing negotiations in a frank and honest way.
“I am very pleased that we have come out here with tangibles and for the first time, the workers’ rights are going to be appreciated. We note that with immediate effect, our members will start receiving their gratuities and some of their pensions without those conditionalities. Those conditionalities ensured that a worker was the most demotivated. And now that we have resolved this matter, we will go back and revert to our normal duties of having the university be a premier university, a centre of excellence and also of a highly motivated workforce. We pledge our allegiance to continuing negotiations in a frank and honest way, because it’s through negotiations that you are going to reach settlements that are amicable to all,” said Phiri.
UNZAPROSU president Micheal Kaluba, who also spoke during the same meeting, called for mutual respect between management and the unions.
“I think management, let’s mutually respect each other, we respect you as our managers and trust that you run the institutions. You also respect us as workers’ representatives entrusted to look after the welfares and the interests of the worker. When there is a problem, it doesn’t help anybody to run away from the workplace. In fact, that’s when a leader should be. Because you can’t be a general of an army only to be saluted in the mess, when there is a war you run away. You will find a line corporal has taken over and become a general. So when there is a problem let’s all sit and review the problem and find a solution, the way we have done now. My request to our members in the union is that as your leaders, we have made an undertaking that we call off the protest in the interest of the institution and in the interest of our students,” said Kaluba.