THE UNIVERSITY of Zambia Professional Staff Union has urged government to release K82 million still owed to UNZA to settle the 2021 and 2022 collective agreement before the new academic year begins.

At a media briefing, Monday, UNZAPROSU president Michael Clement Kaluba said the government should keep its word and avail the money owed to the University of Zambia.

“We demand that the government keeps its word by releasing the K50 million and the K32 million so that our members are paid their gratuities. This would ensure continuous industrial harmony. This is in line with the spirit of give and take which we demonstrated by keeping our promise to call off the protest,’ Kaluba said.

Kaluba said UNZA workers had been operating without valid revised conditions of service since 31st December, 2020 which was against the law.

“Furthermore, the acting Minister of a Education made a commitment to lobby the Ministry of Finance on the possibility of a supplementary budget to be submitted in order to address the issues of negotiations for improved conditions of service for the year 2021 at UNZA. UNZAPROSU wishes to state that this commitments as not been fulfilled as UNZA staff have continued working without valid revised conditions of service. The collective agreement in use expired on 31st December, 2020. Members of the press, please note that this act of employees working without valid conditions of service is illegal and it is an act which is always condemned by all stakeholders who believe in the rule of law,” Kaluba said.

“The government is known for condemning any form of illegality and we expect them to condemn UNZA management for perpetuating this illegality.”

Kaluba said government did not release K48 million for gratuities despite telling the media it was done.

“The then acting Minister of Education Honourable Elvis Nkandu was reported in the media to have said that government had released K48 million towards the payment of gratuities to UNZA and that the government would further release the outstanding K50 million towards payment of gratuities. The acting Minister of education then is on record to have given a ministerial statement in parliament on the floor of the house during the last session of parliament, that the K50 million would be released “soon”,” Kaluba said.

“UNZAPROSU wishes to inform the public that there was no K48 million that was released by the current government and that the K48 was already in coffers of UNZA and it was part of the K200 million loan obtained from ZANACO with assistance from the previous government way back before the 12 August 2021 general elections. What the current government did was to waive the conditionality of paying only retirees as demanded by the previous government which led to non-payment of dues to employees in active employment. Furthermore, the K50 million which the current government promised and undertook to make available has not been received since 10th November, 2021 when the government made that commitment.”

He said government had also not released K32 million to compensate for the deficit which arose from allowing owing students to write the exams.

“The government also forced UNZA management to allow students with outstanding balance of tuitions fees to write their exams. To that effect, the government made another commitment that about K32 million would be released to support a deficit that would arise from allowing students that owed UNZA fees to write examinations without clearing their balances. From where we stand as workers, we have not seen that K32 million money being released to UNZA. As a union we have noted that the non-releasing of the K32 million has adversely affected the smooth running of the institution and the process of gratuities,” Kaluba said.

Meanwhile, Kaluba argued that the merging of General and Higher Education ministries had overshadowed the higher education sector.

“As stakeholders, we have observed that the merging of General and Higher Education into one ministry has over shadowed the higher education sector as we have observed that primary and secondary schools are receiving more attention from the ministry than universities. As a union, we feel not much has been done to the higher education sector which has to absorb the expected high numbers of entrants from secondary schools as a result of free education policy. In the current set up the policy on higher education is not very clear,” said Kaluba.