University of Malawi workers launch strike over pay hike

University of Malawi (Unima) is headed for yet another gruelling saga following the collapse of discussions between the Government and the UNIMA workers union representatives in Lilongwe on Wednesday over salary hike.

According to sources, government representatives a Dr Masanjala, the Economic Advisor to the Ministry of Finance, Dr Dixy Maluwa Banda, the Director of Educational services in the Ministry of Education, and Dr John Bisika, the Principle Secretary for the Ministry of Education, did not reach to the compromise on the matter.

Government trashed the salary hike demands as “unreasonable”.

The Chancellor College (Chanco) lecturers are demanding a 113 percent salary revision, arguing the figure is based on a particular formula after taking into account the (combined) 59 percent devaluation of the kwacha and inflation.

They gave the Ministry of Labour 21 days to resolve the dispute or they would be left with no option but take an industrial action.

The Malawi Polytechnic, another constituent college of the Unima and Mzuzu University (Mzuni), are already on strike to press government to make the 113 and 21 percent adjustments, respectively.

But the government offered only 15% of which the University has rejected and the same government raised to 21% which has also been turned down.

The University workers union was until Wednesday waiting for the response from their representatives before starting a strike.

The Chancellor College Academic Staff Union CCASU and Polytechnic Academic Staff Union PASCO have warned that if their demands are not met by the date outlined in their letter, they  will withdraw their teaching services .

Unima registrar Benedicto Malunga feared that the threats by lecturers may disrupt teaching and learning at a time when the academic calendar is already out of tune due to previous disruptions.

Malunga was locked in a meeting when contacted for comment on the development.

In related development, according to reliable sources, Unima Vice-Chancellor Dr. Emmanuel Fabiano busted into anger when the officials from the government requested him to meet them on Wednesday morning when they were called to be in Lilongwe by Tuesday 9 O’clock in the morning.

More strikes

Meanwhile, on Wednesday support staff at Polytechnic have also started a strike. They are demanding a 75 percent salary increase.

The staff which include the college library, clinic and security personnel have denied a 21 percent increase saying it is manifestly inadequate

“The increase is just too little and the way things like rent and food have gone up we deserve more than 21 percent so we are not accepting anything below 75 percent,” said one striking member of staff.

The striking staff have put placards all over the college.

Publicity Secretary for the Polytechnic Student Union (PSU), Emmanuel Chamumtolo said that it is a big problem for students to be lat the campus without a library, a clinic and security.

Chamumtolo said: “Students depend on the library, the clinic and the security for them to prosper with their studies. Now these departments are not working and we will continue to suffer.”

He pleaded with both the government and the striking staff to resolve the issue quickly so that the academic calendar should not be disturbed.

Unima was closed for about eight months last year, following an academic freedom wrangle between staff on one hand and the council and government on the other.

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