As Malawi Government has not yet given feedback on communication about increased pay in the countryâ€™s two public universities, an industrial time bomb is ticking.
Support staff in some constituent colleges of the University of Malawi (Unima) are threatening to strike if they do not get a 75 percent salary increment. It is the same story at Mzuzu University (Mzuni) where academic and support staff are also demanding a pay rise.
Through the University Workers Trade Union (UWTU), the Unima support staff are demanding a salary increment barely days after academic staff at the Polytechnic in Blantyre stopped teaching and academics at Chancellor College (Chanco) in Zomba threatened to follow suit.
In the petition, signed by UWTU president Franklin Kapeni, addressed to Unima Registrar, the union raised concern that despite writing the council on two occasions about the issue, nothing has come out.
“Despite UWTU being very diplomatic in making suggestions for 75 percent salary increase, no party has shown interest to call for a round-table discussion with UWTU leaders, and this clearly shows that University of Malawi workers are not recognised at all.
“UWTU, therefore, starting from today, the 7th August 2012 up to the 21st August 2012, is giving notice to your office that should there be no an implementation of a 75 percent salary increase, effective from 1st July, 2012, all UWTU members in the University of Malawi shall be on sit-in from the 22nd of August, 2012″, reads the letter dated August 7 2010,” reads the petition in part.
Kapeni said if their concerns are not resolved, all the workers in the four constituent colleges of Unimaâ€”Chanco, Polytechnic, College of Medicine and Kamuzu College of Nursingâ€”are going to strike.
In Zomba on Wednesday, support staff at Chanco marched to the University Office and presented a petition to Unima Vice-Chancellor Dr Emmanuel Fabiano in Zomba.
The staff started their march from Chanco Campus at 9am and were escorted by the police. They chanted songs reflecting on the economic hardships they are facing with the devaluation of the kwacha. People along the way watched with curiosity as motorists were allowed to pass without any problem.
The protestors were at some point joined by president of Chancellor College Academic Staff Union (Ccasu), Sunduzwayo Madise and his predecessor Dr Jessie Kabwila-Kapasula, during the march.
Kapeni presented the petition to Fabiano, who was accompanied by Unima Registrar Benedicto Okomaatani Malunga.
Malunga read the contents of the petition whereas Fabiano assured the staff that they will be communicated to after getting a response from government.
Meanwhile, Mzuni academic and non-academic staff, who earlier demanded over 75 percent following the recent devaluation and rising cost of living, on Wednesday resolved to strike. The staff also denied managers access to food at the institution, forcing them to go and eat at their houses and other eateries outside the campus.
According to one of the staff, they will not reverse their decision until their demand is met.
“What we want is to completely shut down business apart from cafeteria and dispensary. We have been making this demand for so long. The cost of living has gone up and it was out of our patriotism for the school that we accepted a 21 percent increment which is not being honoured.
“The council came up with the figure and we are hearing that the maximum increment for parastatals is 10 percent. So, it being our employer, that amount [21 percent] cannot be reversed no matter what, and it [University Council] will explore ways of meeting the deficit,” said the source.
Mzuni acting registrar Yonam Ngwira said they were taken by surprise that there was a strike. He said there was no prior communication on the move. (With additional reporting by GEORGE SINGINI, Staff Reporter)