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13 April, 2018

COUNCIL OF UNIVERSITY OF MALAWI REACTS TO THE CURRENT SIT-IN

BY CLERICAL, TECHNICAL AND SUPPORT STAFF

The Council for the University of Malawi says it considers irregular and unreasonable the decision of the University Workers Trade Union (UWTU) to undertake a Sit-in. UWTU leadership has instructed Clerical, Technical and Support (CTS) staff members in the University to proceed on an industrial action- a Sit-in before negotiations were exhausted. UWTU –Chancellor College chapter initiated the Sit-in on 10th April, 2018 at the time when Council and UWTU leadership were locked-up in negotiations.

In press release issued and signed by the Chairman for the Council of the University Dr. James Maida, the University says it is saddened by the turnaround of events following the support staff withdrawal of their labour

Reads the press release in part, “It is sad to note that the Sit-in continues to date despite Council’s call to withdraw it and give Council time to attend to the Agreement.

“Council strongly condemns this action that simply shows lack of responsibility and somewhat indicative of UWTU’s desire to entertain personal interests without regard to students’ right to education. UWTU’s call on CTS to withdraw labour is in breach of the Agreement which Council and UWTU signed last year on 15th July 2017. UWTU president appended his signature to that Agreement”.

The press release says the 15th July 2017 Agreement shows that the 25% salary adjustment would be paid within 12 months effective from 1st July, 2017. Therefore the press release adds that UWTU leaders to let their members be on Sit-in before the 12-month period expired is clearly tantamount to a breach of the said Agreement.

Dr. James Maida says Clause 2 of the Agreement is clear that the mode of paying the 25% salary adjustment by starting with 13% and later 12% was duly signed by the UWTU president Mike Namandwa in the presence of UWTU executive.

The Chairman reveled that Council honoured the immediate payment of the 13% as at 1st July, 2017 while the remaining 12% balance was agreed to be decided in January in accordance with the three options espoused in Clause 3 of the said Agreement.

“There was a proviso that 12% payment was subject to availability of resources from the Mid-Term Budget session. It is therefore, disheartening that UWTU leadership resolved to be on Sit-in before 1st July, 2018, when there is that last resort option in the Agreement duly signed by their President which is why Council considers it a serious breach of the said Agreement”, Dr. Maida retorts.

The release says Council for the University of Malawi repeatedly pointed out to the UWTU leadership that Council was desirous of nurturing a mutual trust between itself and UWTU to ensure that industrial peace prevails in the University.

In the present events, the plight of students who at Chancellor College, for example, are about to write their end of semester exams, is at stake with the closure of the facilities like library. The Polytechnic in Blantyre again just commenced its new academic year with a double intake of first year students. The intake combines the 2015/16 and 2016/17 students because the former delayed to begin classes following similar incidences of sit-ins by academic staff memebrs.

The news release from Council emphasizes that UWTU should also have considered the best interests of students and their right to education, besides, “the quality of education the University affords our students”.

According the press release Council aims at the greater interest of giving students an opportunity to benefit from quality higher education while committed to better staff welfare.

“It is a way of bequeathing valuable education and leadership. Council is of the view that UWTU has other ulterior motives, which have compelled them to withdrawal their labour. UWTU’s industrial action is premature. UWTU should provide Council with ample time espoused in the Agreement as contained in Clause 3 of the Agreement. Notably, the Sit-in is undertaken almost two and a half months before 1st July, 2018 date mentioned in the Agreement. In view of the foregoing, Council is now compelled to explore other avenues to ensure that our students do not continue to be inconvenienced, concludes the press release issued and signed by the Chairman for Council, Dr. James Maida.