Academic staff at Chancellor College (Chanco) have vowed not to call off their strike unless their employer, the University of Malawi (Unima), addresses their grievances.
Lecturers at Chanco, a constituent college of Unima alongside their collegaues at The Polytechnic, Kamuzu College of Nursing (KCN) and the College of Medicine (CoM), want Unima to resolve salary disparities among staff in similar grades in the four colleges.
Chanco Academic Staff Union (Ccasu) president Anthony Gunde yesterday described the prevailing scenario as an “apartheid” system where some staff within the same Unima are getting different pay from the same employer for doing the same work.
This follows concerns that some staff on the same level are receiving different salaries for the same kind of work being undertaken in the constituent colleges of Unima.
Last year, it was established that there were pay disparities in Unima colleges, a development that saw KCN, Chanco and The Polytechnic demanding a 30 percent salary increment.
In an interview, Gunde said they have exhausted all the channels and that they have decided to stage the strike as a last resort.
He said the proposal to harmonise salaries relate to all colleges under Unima, the issue is not limited to Chanco.
Said Gunde: “Unima Council is refusing to follow labour practices. We have approached them on this issue on several occasions but they have failed to comply. It is such a huge anomaly for people to do the same work by the same employer and yet get different salaries.”
In a letter addressed to the Ministry of Labour, Sports, Youth and Manpower Development dated September 6 2016, staff from the three colleges questioned why staff at CoM were getting 40 percent and sometimes 50 percent higher than their colleagues in similar grades in other colleges.
Documents The Nation has seen show that Ccasu together with Polytechnic Academic Committee on Welfare (Pascow), CoM Staff Welfare Committee and KCN Staff Welfare Committee wrote Unima Council on September 5 2016 asking them to intervene in the salary disparity issue.
In the letter addressed to the council, the colleges argued that they have lived with the issue for quite some time, and that it is time for the council to act swiftly towards the issue.
But in a letter dated August 10 2016 REF 2/6/4 directed to Ccasu signed by Unima registrar Benedicto Okomaatani Malunga which The Nation has also seen, Unima quashed an application by the staff, arguing that differentiation on the structures with CoM has a long history.
The letter argues that all staff at CoM get exactly the same pay like those of every other university.
“However, lecturers go an extra mile to render clinical services in the hospital as doctors on duty who have their salary topped up by 40%,” reads part of the letter.
Commenting on the developments, education activist Benedicto Kondowe said government should consider the issue of salary harmonisation, emphasising that failure to do so will lead to complications within the system.
Yesterday, Malunga said Unima management had gone through the right channels of conciliation and that the move by Ccasu has come as a surprise.
He said an agreement was reached between the two parties involved following a report that was released following an arbitration that took place in the presence of private practice lawyer Modecai Msisha, who has been a conciliator.
Malunga said he could not comment much on the issue as management will likely be meeting to discuss on the way forward.n