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NUL lecturers to boycott classes

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

ROMA — “No pay, no classes.” That is the message from the Lesotho University Teachers and Researchers Union (Lutaru) to the university’s management. Lutaru president, Motšelisi Mokhethi, told the Sunday Express on Friday that lecturers will be boycotting classes if they are not paid salaries withheld when they went on strike late last year. The university is expected to open on September 24. Mokhethi said Lutaru believes its members should be paid because they have managed to make up for the time lost during the strike.

They were demanding a 15 percent salary increase and better working conditions. She warned that if the salaries are not paid by the time the university opens lecturers will boycott classes. “We cannot get back to work if there is no solution to our grievances when the school re-opens,” Mokhethi said on Friday. Lutaru has since engaged the government to intervene over the dispute which has been raging for the past six months. This paper understands that the Thomas Thabane-led coalition government is desperate to avoid another crippling strike at the university. Sources however said the government has to find a way of paying the withheld salaries without being seen to be reversing the “no work, no pay policy”.

“The government is worried that paying those salaries will set a wrong precedent,” said a source close to the talks between management, Lutaru and the government. Meanwhile NUL employees have vowed to continue pilling pressure on Vice-Chancellor Professor Sharon Siverts to resign.

Last week the workers said they will continue picketing outside Siverts’ office until she packs her bags. Workers also agreed during a staff meeting at NUL’s main campus on Tuesday that they will also pressure Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing to pronounce the government’s position on their demand that Siverts be fired. Metsing refused to comment on Siverts’ fate during a meeting he had with the university’s employees, NUL management and the Minister of Education on Monday at the main campus.

The deputy prime minister was updating the NUL staff on the progress the government had made in addressing problems at the university.

During a question and answer session Metsing was asked if he was aware that NUL workers want Siverts to “resign now.” But Metsing said: “I am sorry I will not comment on that.” In a staff meeting held at NUL on Tuesday, workers agreed that if they continue picketing then Metsing will be forced to comment on their demand for the vice-chancellor to resign. “The minister (deputy prime minister) said he will not comment on the fact that we want Siverts to resign. But he will comment. The nation will force him to comment,” said Raphael Thuube, a member of the staff committee.

“Siverts must go. That is the conclusion we have reached in this meeting. We need to build the momentum for our move to get her to go,” said another staff member.

Workers said they would picket every day at around 8am outside Siverts’ office. “She should start hearing our voices starting tomorrow (Wednesday). We have to stand together in this mission.” One employee had other workers in stitches when he said if Siverts leaves he will “offer her a free ride to Moshoeshoe I Airport”. “Anything that will make Siverts go will be most welcome. She has failed to do her work for the past year. She does not have special expertise. Everything she does is shrouded with secrecy.”

After the meeting which lasted nearly two hours over 200 NUL employees gathered and sang protest songs outside Siverts’ office block. They warned her that her “day had come”. NUL workers accuse Siverts of implementing a restructuring programme without consulting them. They also say she has failed to run the university since she was hired early last year. On August 31 Lutaru wrote an “open letter” calling on the vice-chancellor to resign.

The scathing letter accused Siverts of negligence, arrogance, incompetence, nepotism and profligacy.

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