Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) has given Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) until May 9 2016 to resolve teachers’ grievances or face a nationwide strike.
With a membership of about 37 000 teachers in both public primary and secondary schools out of the estimated teacher population of 78 000, TUM boasts the largest constituency.
Among the outstanding grievances, TUM cites issues of promotion and salary adjustments of teachers, failure by MoEST to pay leave grants to public secondary school teachers for the 2015/16 financial year expiring on June 30 and delayed payment of salary arrears for primary school teachers.
In an interview on Tuesday, TUM secretary general Denis Kalekeni said the union has exhausted the available channels in a bid to resolve the issues amicably, but MoEST has not been forthcoming; hence, the resolution to strike.
He said last month TUM wrote MoEST requesting for a round-table discussion to find a solution, the ministry allegedly ignored the suggestion.
TUM’s petition, which The Nation has seen, is dated April 14 2016 and is addressed to the Principal Secretary for MoEST and copied to the chief director responsible for primary and secondary schools, director for Human Resource Management and Development and the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU).
The petition reads in part: “We write to bring to your attention that all teachers in public service shall hold an industrial action in form of a sit-in from Monday 9th May 2016 due to your personal as well as the ministry’s inability to resolve teachers’ grievances which were given to you through our letter Reference Number TUM/MoEST/385/2016 dated 17th March 2016, submitted to you through the office of the Chief Director responsible for primary and secondary. This letter, therefore, serves as a 24-day notice for you to resolve the issues or withstand the industrial action.”
On promotion and salary adjustment of teachers promoted in 2013 to Grade TJ (PT2), TUM has faulted MoEST for failing to provide transport to the said teachers and ferry them to their new duty stations.
In its demands, TUM also wants Minister of Education, Science and Technology Emmanuel Fabiano to retract the statement he made through the print media that the ministry had withdrawn the said promotions because of failure on the part of the teachers to report to their new duty stations.
Early last month, Fabiano announced the withdrawal of promotions for over 1 000 primary and secondary school teachers on disciplinary grounds.
But the minister said the ministry was working on effecting salaries for the promoted teachers who reported for duties at their new stations, adding that the new salaries would be effected on April 1 this year.
On leave grants for secondary school teachers for the fiscal year 2015/16, TUM says while it appreciates that almost all primary school teachers have received their leave grant for the period in question, no secondary school teacher has been paid and no communication has been made for the delay.
When contacted yesterday, MoEST spokesperson Manfred Ndovi confirmed receiving the petition, saying the ministry is working on the way forward.
He said the ministry also plans to meet TUM before the set deadline.
In April last year, Treasury released K2.4 billion to settle primary school teachers’ leave grants and outstanding arrears for the 2013/14 financial year after the teachers threatened to stage a strike.
At that time, Ndovi assured the teachers of smooth payment of future leave grants as government had rectified all problems that rocked the system. n