Barely a week after resolving the labour dispute that left Chancellor College closed for almost six months, the University of Malawi (Unima) faces more uncertainty following a 21-day ultimatum to meet support staff pay hike demands.
Workers’ representatives from Unima’s four constituent colleges—Chanco, The Polytechnic, Kamuzu College of Nursing (KCN) and College of Medicine (CoM)—are pushing their management to give them a concrete position on their request for a salary harmonisation for staff with equal qualifications and a 40 percent pay rise.
The ultimatum has come after Unima management told the leadership of Unima Workers Trade Union (UWTU) and representatives of the university’s four constituent colleges that there was no money for their salary increment.
Yesterday, the disgruntled workers warned that should management fail to give them convincing reasons they will be forced to down their tools.
The threat is coming at a time when government and Unima Council have just resolved an impasse with lecturers of Chanco over salary disparities that saw the college remain unopened.
In an interview yesterday, UWTU secretary general James Khando confirmed that the workers feel cheated by management and they are not relenting on their wish to have their salaries adjusted upwards by 40 percent.
He said: “The workers have mandated the union leaders to issue the ultimatum to press management implement our demands. We have stayed for four years without any increment and the workers are saying enough is enough, they can no longer take that.”
Khando said the workers are also pushing for salary harmonisation between clerical and support staff and academic and administrative staff of equal qualifications which started eight years ago.
He said since the signing of the agreement, management has been dodging the issue and “we now want them to tell us the truth”. Unima registrar Benedicto Wokomaatani Malunga declined to
comment on the matter yesterday,saying he had not been in office as he was ill.
On Wednesday, the union leaders met Unima management who told them there was no money to implement their demand and should wait until the newly instituted Unima Council meets to discuss their concerns.
During the talks, Unima management was represented by the vice chancellor John Saka, provice chancellor Al Mtenje and a finance officer while the union and colleges leaders were 11 in total.
The Unima workers’ demands come hot on the heels of a recent offer of salary increment by 20 percent for the lowest paid civil servant following negotiations between Civil Service Trade Union (CSTU), which rejected an initial 10 percent pay rise offer, and the Government Negotiating Team (GNT).
By pledging to meet the civil servants’ demands, government has increased the wage bill by K2 billion.
The civil servants’ push for a higher pay rise comes against the background of a warning by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the wage bill while strengthening tax compliance to mobilise enough resources in line with the country’s development goals.
Following a 15 percent pay hike for the public sector last July, the public sector wage bill rose by K22 billion to K264 billion which, according to Treasury, was 23.3 percent of total expenditure in the K1.3 trillion 2016