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NUL lecturers locked out

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

MASERU — The National University of Lesotho (NUL) on Thursday said it will continue to bar striking lecturers and researchers from the entering the campus.
NUL’s acting director of communications and marketing, Phomolo Lebotsa, said lecturers were supposed to stay away from the university while negotiations between management and the Lesotho University Teachers and Researchers Union (Lutaru) continue.
“Members of Lutaru will continue to be subjected to a lock-out — barring them entry from the Roma and Maseru (IEMS) campuses of NUL.
“Those who are resident at the Roma campus are prohibited from accessing the academic sector. They are restricted to their residences as tenants,” Lebotsa said in a statement.
The university authorities obtained a court order last Sunday to ban the striking workers and students from holding demonstrations within the university premises.
Lebotsa said a court case between the NUL management and Lutaru and the students’ committee was still being heard.
“The court case between the National University of Lesotho (NUL) and Lutaru/SRC was heard today, 20th October in the High Court of Lesotho. Judgment has been reserved,” he said.
“Students, staff and the general public are advised that classes will remain suspended until further notice.”
The lecturers and researchers went on strike on October 7 demanding a 15 percent salary increase.
They also want a review to narrow the gap between lecturers and associate professors.
Last week the lecturers were joined by the non-academic staff who were demanding an immediate halt to the ongoing restructuring exercise.
On October 14 Lutaru announced that it was ready to suspend the strike for two weeks to give dialogue a chance.
But the management rejected this proposal saying it wanted a lasting solution to the labour dispute.
It said classes would only resume when the university had resolved the pay dispute.
Since the strike started the management has insisted that the university cannot afford the pay increases that Lutaru members are demanding.
A 15 percent salary increase, the management said, would increase the wage bill by M30 million while a review to narrow the salary gap between lecturers would need M100 million.
Last week NUL’s pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Mafa Sejanamane told the Sunday Express that even if the management was willing to review the salaries there was no way it was going to raise that kind of money.
“We just don’t have that kind of money. The university is in a serious financial crisis.”
He said a 15 percent salary increase for lecturers and researchers would add a massive M30 million to the wage bill which is already bloated.
Currently, just over 82 percent of the university’s grant from the government goes towards staff salaries and benefits.
A salary increase, Sejanamane said, will add to that “unsustainable burden”.
“The reality is that the university is broke and the figures speak for themselves.”
He added that the university had a M5 million budget deficit for the financial year ended June 30, 2011.
For the current financial year the university is forecasting the budget deficit to balloon to a whopping M50 million, he said.

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