The sit-in by University of Malawi (Unima) support staff at Chancellor College (Chanco) and The Polytechnic has left students stranded as some of the key facilities have been sealed.
Meanwhile, students at Chanco have resorted to using classes and the gym as libraries for studies at night.
The bone of contention is a 12 percent salary increment from an agreed 25 percent which management partly honoured after paying 13 percent.
In expressing their grievances, Chanco support staff yesterday converged at the University Office in Zomba from morning up to afternoon hours.
Initially, the strike was supposed to be joined by the other constituent colleges under Unima namely, Kamuzu College of Nursing (KCN) and College of Medicine (CoM).
However, when The Nation crew visited both CoM and KCN campuses in Blantyre, it established that it was business as usual at the two institutions as facilities operated by the support staff were fully functional and students were seen accessing them.
But at The Polytechnic in Blantyre where support staff joined the strike yesterday, there was a notice at the library which said it was going to be closed for the whole day. No reason was given for the closure.
Tree branches were also seen at the entrance to The Polytechnic, but were later on removed by guards manning the gates.
Scores of students were seen outside the library, the open theatre and lawn chairs close to the library, hoping the library would open.
However, Unima registrar Benedicto Wokomaatani Malunga, in a statement issued on Wednesday, blamed the support staff for engaging in the sit-in, stressing that they are breaching the agreement the two sides made on payment of the salary increment.
“The CTS [Clerical, Technical and Support] staff’s withdrawal of labour, which apparently has been condoned by UWTU [United Workers Trade Union] leaders, has caused the UWTU leadership to be in breach of the agreement to which the UWTU president appended his signature,” said Malunga.
According to a communiqué on the agreement made on 15 July 2017 The Nation has seen signed by the Council’s Negotiating Committee chair Limbani Nsapato and UWTU president Mike Namandwa, the two parties agreed that the 25 percent increment would be paid within 12 months from July 1 2017.
Both parties also agreed to have a staggered implementation of the 25 percent salary adjustment starting with 13 percent immediately and the remaining 12 percent to be decided in January this year during a mid-year review meeting.
Besides, both parties also agreed that the review meeting between the two parties shall agree the percentage to be offered, whether to pay the whole 12 percent or to stagger it further.
It is in this regard that Malunga blames the support staff leadership for proceeding on strike.
“For the UWTU leaders to let their constituents be on strike before 1st July 2018 when the agreed third option was to be implemented, has been reached, it is a serious breach of the agreement,” further explained Malunga.
But in a separate interview, Namandwa said they are yet to respond to Malunga’s sentiments and emphasised that all constituent colleges of Unima will join, except for CoM which will join them at a later stage.
Meanwhile, University of Malawi Students Union (Umsu) vice-president Ellington Gopani says they are closely monitoring the situation and they will soon convene for an appropriate action.n