DMI St. John The Baptist University has fired about 10 lecturers who refused to sign a controversial 50 percent pay cut agreement due to Covid-19 pandemic.
The differences, according to the documents which are in Nyasa Times possession show that the University wanted to force the lecturers to sign the agreement which was full of grey areas and later, another memorandum of understanding that had a clause that bars the workers to seek legal redress on the matter.
A circular dated May 18, 2020 indicates that the 50 percent pay cut is due to failure to generate fees due to the college closure.
President Peter Mutharika declared a a state of disaster on May 20 and ordered the closure of all educational institutions in the country by May 23.
“The college mainly relies on school fees paid by the students, the failure to generate income through school fees has financially crippled the college such that the college has only be able to pay full sallaris up to May 31, 2020,” reads the Circular signed by the University’s Vice Chancellor Dr G Anand Binot Singh
However, the university is continuing collecting school fees from students who are currently on online learning from home and have just started writing end semester examinations for semester II of 2019/2020 academic year.
Among others, the agreement indicates that the university will not pau salary arrears for the period that employee will be paid half salary.
“The employee confirms that he has taken independent legal advice on the terms and effect of this agreement and in particular the effect on his inability to pursue a complaint in the Industrial Relations Court, the High Court or any other,” reads part of the agreement.
However, according to one of the lecturers who opted for strict anonymity said after meeting the university’s consultant – Professional Edge Consultants Head, Golden Msilimba – on the matter, they asked for ample time to do consultations.
“We were also advised to meet as staff members in order to provide concrete solutions on the matter. We requested that we have negotiations with the university since they just decided to impose the pay cut on us without consulting us. We also demanded a fresh call to the university to allow them have a union and start afresh the negotiation process in line with the Work Policy Guidelines on Presidential task Force on Covid-19,” said the lecturer
According to the letter dated May 26, 2020 addressed to the university management, the staff demanded that fresh consultations to be made with representatives of Staff on the impact of COVID 19 on DMI inline with COVID 19 Work Place guidelines and in case of a deadlock we propose that mediator should facilitate the discussion.
“Currently, we advance for the establishment of a DMI St. John the Baptist University Staff Union and to prevent the current scenario happening in the future in which members of staff were not consulted when the 50% pay cut was being negotiated in their absentia hence lacked transparency on the part of the employer contrary to COVID 19 Workplace guidelines.
“The need to have a local Human Resource Manager (HRM) as the involvement of the consultant as an HRM addressing the members of staff on pay cut in the name of advisor is not befitting a University of this repute and those heading the University.
“The University must therefore, not outsource the HRM on issues of work related policies of employees and if the advisor is to be involved, he has to act as a Third Party to any discussion that we do with the University and the need for University’s transparency and accountability on financial standings before bringing the issue of pay cuts on the discussion table as stipulated in COVID 19 Work Place guidelines and Section 38 of the Labour Relations Act,” reads part of the letter.
The staff members further claimed that they have all along have been in the dark on how much the university earn and spend, it was appalling to hear from the advisor that the university can just manage to settle full salary payments for the month of May otherwise they can go on to offer 50 percent payment till December 2020, which seems to be inconsistency in terms of transparency and accountability on financial transactions and the he University has to clarify its contiegency plan including endowment policiesin respect of the impact of COVID 19.
They also questioned the conduct of the university on the support staff are to have 50 percent pay cut even though they receive only basic pay (35 000MK), meaning they shall have 17500 MK after pay cut which is against the labour laws of Malawi.
“The issue of pay cuts as per COVID 19 guidelines has to be reasonable; 50 percent pay cut in this scenario seems not to be reasonable in respect of the proposed salary cuts and fact that the workload keeps increasing everyday. The ever-increasing workload is a proof enough that business is usual at the campus – the number of customers/students has not dropped and all what the University has to do is to leverage its online learning options and collect millions of kwacha from delinquencies.
“Members are working from home against the background of fee payments before end examinations by students or else they shall not sit for their examinations. Additional pain to Faculty members facilitating online learning from home –the pay cut comes at time when members are buying Internet data out of their pockets to facilitate online learning,” reads part of the letter.
Further, they claim that other senior officers are signing 50 percent pay cut agreements on behalf of their subordinates which amount to forgery and at times being forced to do so.DMI St. John the Baptist University is a mission school from India and came to Malawi in 2010.
When contacted, Dr G Anand said he will called as he was about to go into a meeting, but could not pick up call after several attempts.
DMI- St. John the Baptist University (DMISJBU) is a part of the internationally acclaimed and renowned DMI Group of Institutions run by the congregations of MMI Fathers and DMI Sisters. The DMI- SJBU of Malawi was approved on 29th March 2011 by the Government of Malawi and accredited by National Council for Higher Education.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :