Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) has said teachers have resolved to stage a sit-in, effective September 5 2016, when public schools open, until government resolves their long-standing grievances.
However, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) says it is not aware of the sit-in.
TUM is accusing government of dilly-dallying on the commitments it made at a meeting the Government Negotiating Team (GNT) held with the union’s leadership in May 2016.
In an interview yesterday, TUM president Chauluka Muwake said the teachers were fed up with government’s decision to backtrack on commitments it made when it met the leadership of the union in May 2016.
He said this is an indication that government is taking teachers for granted; hence, the need for the teachers to withhold their services.
Said Muwake: “We’re saying all teachers on government payroll will not be available to render their services because government has failed to resolve our grievances. We feel cheated and, as such, we are not yielding to their lies this time.”
The TUM leader said during their May meeting with the GNT, government assured them that it would address their grievances by June 30 2016, an offer that led to the cancelling of the teachers’ planned strike.
“However, to date there is nothing they have implemented. Therefore, I wish to emphasise that we will not open schools on September 5 2016, as stated in the academic calendar,” Muwake stated.
In a separate interview yesterday, Ministry of Education spokesperson Manfred Ndovi confirmed that government has not resolved the teachers’ grievances due to a number of factors such as financial hardships.
But he said government was not aware of the decision taken by the union.
He criticised TUM for rushing to withhold their services every time they have a burning issue with their employer.
When asked what government will do to avert the strike, Ndovi said: “We’re helpless. We don’t really know how best we can handle their grievances because the moment we try to address one grievance, another one crops up. It’s like every day they are bringing in new grievances.
“For instance, a new grievance that has just cropped up is that of unpaid examination invigilation fees. How can we resolve them all at once, and also when they keep changing goal posts?”
Ndovi said he wished TUM could give government more time “instead of rushing to make threats of withdrawal of their services.”
Teachers were initially expected to go on a nationwide sit-in from May 9 2016 to force government resolve their griavances, which include the unprocedural withdrawal of teachers’ promotions by the ministry and failure to adjust salaries of teachers who had been promoted or upgraded themselves.
The other contentious issues were failure by the ministry to pay leave grants to secondary school teachers for the 2015/16 financial year expiring on June 30 and delayed payment of salary arrears for primary school teachers.
TUM was further angered by the decision by government to demand that promoted teachers should move to rural-based schools using personal finances, adding that teachers who failed to comply with this requirement had their promotions withdrawn.
The union has twice cancelled the sit-in to give government time to resolve teachers’ grievances as spelt in the April 14 2016 petition.