Staff at Luanar have gone on an indefinite strike, demanding harmonisation of salaries, with their counterparts at University of Malawi (Unima) who they say are getting higher remuneration.
Government and Luanar management have since shot down the proposal by striking Lilongwe University of Natural Resources (Luanar) staff, describing it as “unrealistic”.
On Thursday, Luanar staff announced the start of an indefinite strike to force government harmonise their salaries with those of Unima.
The staff also demand that, by next month, they be paid 10 percent salary increase the Minister of Finance announced in his budget statement in September this year.
Unima management effected the 10 percent salary increment this month, with arrears from July.
Instead, government and Luanar management have promised to pay the 10 percent increase by next July, with 12 months arrears, a decision the disgruntled staff do not agree with.
According to a notice co-signed by Luanar Staff Union member Sekanawo Kasiya of Bunda Chapter, and University Workers Trade Union (UWTU) president Stevens Thengo, the staff members informed the college of their intention to commence with the strike from last Thursday.
In an interview, Thengo said they have been in talks with management since November last year, asking for harmonisation of salaries with their Unima counterparts, but management has not responded to their call, save for promises made now and again.
He said another bone of contention is that the staff members want the university to pay them the 10 percent salary increment with arrears (from July) by next month, and not next July.
“The 10 percent is part of harmonisation. Staff have not demanded for a salary increase. They have demanded for salary harmonisation. We are arguing that the International Labour Organisation stipulates the principle of equal remuneration for work of equal value where industries are regulated by public authority. Both Luanar and Unima are regulated by public authority,” he argued.
In a telephone interview, Luanar registrar Phillip Kaonda said management had made it clear that they cannot harmonise salaries with Unima since the two were different institutions, but they are considering making the remuneration reasonably comparable.
On effecting the government announced 10 percent salary increment, Kaonda said they have no funds to make the payment by next month, but beginning of the next financial year and they will pay with 12 months arrears.
This was also the same response Nation on Sunday got from Minister of Education, Science and Technology William Susuwele Banda, who expressed optimism that the staff will understand government’s position and reconsider their decision on staging a sit–in. He said they are in agreement with their request on effecting the 10 percent only that resources are not available for now.
“The salaries cannot be the same because we have institutions that are able to generate their own money and they would like to raise their money based on what they are generating then government should allow them to do so,” explained the Minister.
By close of business yesterday, the union leader indicated that they had refused to meet management, saying all they need is to have their grievances sorted out without fresh promises.
President for students Union Frank Mwakila confirmed that staff members had gone on strike as all operations were shutdown.