Lectures resume at troubled NUL

MASERU — Lectures at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) resumed on Tuesday with the teachers’ union saying negotiations to find a solution to the issues under dispute were continuing.

The Lesotho University Teachers and Researchers Union (Lutaru) said it had suspended its industrial strike at NUL until March 31 to give dialogue a chance.

Lutaru president, Ramohapi Shale, told the Lesotho Times yesterday that lectures resumed at NUL this week and the situation was back to normal.

“Lectures have resumed and we’re back at work full force. But you must note that we’ve suspended the strike only until March 31, 2012,” Shale said.

The university was shut down on October 12 after lecturers and researchers downed tools demanding a 15 percent pay increase and an improvement in their working conditions.

Lutaru also wanted management to close the salary gap between professors and other lecturers.

Asked what measures they had put in place to help students catch up on lost time, Shale said they were not going to bother doing the work that they did not do while the university was shut down because of the “no work, no pay” policy.

“We were not paid for the time that we were on strike because they (management) applied the no-work, no-pay policy,” Shale said.

However Lutaru secretary general, Puleng Adams, said the primary objective of the suspension of the strike was to allow management and Lutaru to engage each other.

“It is also to settle the labour dispute in a relaxed atmosphere while teaching goes on,” Adams said in a statement.

“Lutaru resolved to suspend its industrial action until March 31, 2012 as a response to the request by parliament’s social cluster portfolio committee.”

Their return to work on December 28, Adams said, was in line with this resolution which was communicated to the NUL management on November 7, 2011.

“Our action has nothing to do with the ultimatum issued by the registrar as per REG-175-2011-40, dated December 8, 2011. Lutaru has neither called off nor abandoned its strike,” he said.

Adams added that efforts by Lutaru and other stakeholders to identify the root cause of their problems were frustrated by Education Minister ‘Mamphono Khaketla.

“The minister closed down the university, even before the social cluster portfolio committee had submitted its report on the National University of Lesotho (Amendment) Bill 2011 to parliament.

“Everyone is aware of the peculiar nature of this closing down, particularly as some university business including teaching of part-time education students continued,” Adams said.

“One may therefore wonder what the real intention of this closing down was. This action means that students and lecturers will be put under severe pressure to complete the first term’s work.”

Khaketla announced on November 23 in the National Assembly that NUL would be shut down until December 28 in the hope that while the students were at home, university management and Lutaru would find a resolution.

Adams said although talks had taken place between the two parties during the closure of the university no deal had been reached.

“There remains a deadlock on the salary increase which Lutaru offered to reduce from 15 percent to 9.5 percent. There has been no offer from management at this point,” she said.

The increase might not materialise as Khaketla announced last year that it would not be proper for Lutaru to get a 15 percent raise when the government gave a five percent increase to all civil servants in 2011.

NUL spokesperson Phomolo Lebotsa could not be reached for comment as both his mobile and office numbers were not available.

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