Fresh from the academic freedom saga, the University of Malawi (Unima) is headed for yet another strenuous chapter: A 113 percent salary increase demand or staff will take industrial action.
The Polytechnic Academic Staff Committee on Welfare (Pascow) on Monday announced withdrawal of their teaching services whereas the Chancellor College Academic Staff Union (Ccasu) threatened unspecified action after expiry of a deadline on Tuesday.
In a letter to the Secretary for Education, 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.
“Today, I would like to inform you that teaching and learning in our institutions could easily be disrupted if the salary increase is not addressed soon,” says Malunga in a letter dated August 2 2012.
Principal secretary for Education John Bisika saidin an interview the demand for salary revision affects all constituent colleges of Unima. Besides the Polytechnic and Chancellor College, the university has two other constituent collegesâ€”the College of Medicine and Kamuzu College of Nursing.
â€œThey [colleges] have submitted a petition to government and government is looking into that,” said Bisika, who indicated that a response to the lecturers will come sometime this week
But Pascow, in a letter to Unima Vice-Chancellor Dr. Emmanuel Fabiano, says: “In view of the absence of the salary increment and lack of attention to our communication by the Office of the University Registrar, the Polytechnic academic members of staff find no other option other than withdrawing [their] teaching duties, and will continue to do so until the proposed salary increment of 113 percent is effected.”
The letter, signed by Pascow president Uchizi Mughogho and secretary general Gift Khangamwa, however, says academic staff will continue to undertake other duties such as consultancies and research.
Meanwhile, Chancellor College (Chanco) lecturers have resolved to press Fabiano for feedback on the salary revision request by this Tuesday.
Reads the letter signed by Ccasu president Sunduzwayo Madise: “After this date, the union [Ccasu] will reserve the right to take any action necessary to ensure that this matter is given due attention.”
In an interview on Monday, Madise could not specify the action the union is going to take, saying the decision will be made by members after the deadline passes.
He justified the 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.
In response to the Ccasu position, Fabiano acknowledged that no concrete response has been given on the salary issue.
Fabiano assured Ccasu that the salaries issue is also council and managementâ€™s concern as well.
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.