NUL staff protest

ROMA – Non-academic staff at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) are up in arms against the university’s management.

The Non-Academic Workers Union (Nawu) which includes secretaries, messengers and other supporting staff this week petitioned the university council to intervene in their disputes with management.

The petition was handed to the council on Monday following a demonstration at the main offices.

The workers are not happy that management has stopped short-term loans for staff. 

Nawu, which claims to represent 95 percent of the non-academic staff at the university, says the management is discriminating against non-academic staff.

The management, Nawu said, was also making unilateral decisions on workers’ contracts and benefits without consultation.

They accuse the university management of transferring their loans with the university to the bank without their consent.

NUL recently transferred car and housing loans to local banks.

That meant workers who still owe money to the university will now deal with the banks directly.

Workers say this was a unilateral decision that puts their assets at risk.

They say while they understood that the decision was meant to help cut administrative costs they worry that banks might “somersault” and attach their properties once they have the lease agreements for their cars and title deeds for their houses.

“We therefore demand that the agreement between NUL management and the banks showing clear terms and conditions be availed to us to scrutinise before the marriage between NUL and banks consummates.

“We are totally against NUL management taking unprecedented and unilateral decisions on staff benefits. There should be consensus between employer and employee based on fair negotiations,” said the petition.

“In accordance with the labour code act (code of good conduct and practice) no decision can be taken regarding the staff benefits which are tied to employment contracts without consent of employees.”

They also request that their “title deeds (leases) and blue cards (for cars) be kept in custody of NUL until grey areas have been ironed and removed by relevant stakeholders”.

The workers are bitter that although the university is financially troubled, management continues to pay senior employees cash in lieu of leave days while denying the same privilege to non-academic staff.

“Our investigation can reveal that the university is now on a paying spree for accumulated leave for academic staff that did not make use of their annual leave allowances while non-academic staff are forced to take their annual leave,” the petition says. 

Nawu president Mphasa Chonela told the Lesotho Times on Monday that they recently discovered that five senior managers had been paid for their leave days.

“We recently discovered that after the payments of accumulated leave days was cancelled, there were about five academic staffers who were paid for the leave days they accumulated,” Chonela said.

The petition further demands that the university recovers money paid to academic staff for their leave days.

“We demand that council should not allow this to happen and the money paid for these leave days be reversed and culprits who authorised the payment be held accountable.”

Members of the non-academic staff were also being marginalised, the petition says.

“We have academic staff here who have reached the retirement age but are still working. Their contracts are overstretched.

“The university would rather have them act in some positions. There are others who even occupy two positions in different offices in the same institution.

“The same is not done for non-academics. This is total discrimination.

“We are aware that there is a recommendation for renewal of contract for the director of human resources. We had previously pointed out to the management that she is incompetent therefore we reaffirm that renewal of her contract does not benefit the university.

“We therefore request that the council should urgently and at earliest attention deal with above mentioned issues to save our beloved sinking institution or else as trade union we will opt for another avenue if no action is taken in due course,” it says.

Last week a university council member told the Sunday Express that they were in “serious financial woes”. He said the university would drown in debt if it does not find means of raising money.

Workers who spoke to this paper this week said the institution is battling to buy stationery because of financial problems.

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