MASERU — Three weeks ago they went on an indefinite strike demanding a 25 percent salary increase.
But when they received their pay slips last week they were shocked to discover that the government had not paid their December salaries.
The government had lived up to its “no work no pay” threat for the striking National University of Lesotho lecturers and researchers.
Most of the striking staffers only got as little M10 for this month.
Some got as low as M1.
That means a miserable Christmas by any measure.
The Lesotho University Teachers and Researchers Union (Lutaru) president, Ramohapi Shale, found a M9. 61 deposit in his account indicating that it was his “salary” for December.
But he says instead of getting shocked “I laughed because I knew that is the intimidation tactic that the university management would use”.
Now he says Lutaru members are “more united than ever to fight for their demands”.
If the government says “no work no pay” then we are now saying “no pay no work”, Shale says.
He says when the university reopens next year the management will realise that their intimidation tactics would not have worked.
“The examinations were not cancelled but postponed. When we go back to work we will not set the exams, invigilate or mark them,” he says.
“We will not do work for which we have not been paid. We will just go back to class and teach. We won’t do anything more.”
Shale says in the meantime the union is considering options to recover the salaries that were not paid.
He says Lutaru is currently negotiating with the university management to reverse the deductions because they are illegal.
Labour regulations say an employer shall not deduct more than 30 percent of a worker’s salary.
In any case, he says, Lutaru members did not sign forms authorising the management to deduct the salary.
“The whole action is illegal,” the union leader said.
Shale says if the negotiations fail the union will challenge the deductions in court.
“While pursuing that legal action we will continue to be on strike until our demands are met,” he says.
“We will not back down.”
The union also wants the management to reverse the 100 percent increase in staff house rentals and improve working conditions before they can resume work.
The Sunday Express understands that the management has resolved that there is no way the university can afford to pay the 25 percent that Lutaru has demanded.
“There is no way we can afford to review their salaries by 25 percent without robbing a bank,” said a senior management official on Friday.
“The university just does not have that kind of money.”
He said the university could only afford the three percent salary increase that it had initially proposed.
The Sunday Express has seen a confidential report detailing the financial implication of the salary increase that Lutaru is demanding.
The report shows that the university already has a deficit of M14.6 million even before it effects any salary adjustments.
It is also sitting on a M37.9 million bank overdraft.
The document, recently presented to the university council, shows that M48 673 426 will be needed if the salaries are to be reviewed by 25 percent.
A 20 percent salary increase would require the university to source an extra M38 938 740.
A 15 percent increase will cost the university another M19 469 370, while a 10 percent review would require M9 734 685.
If Lutaru agrees to the initial offer of three percent the university will have to look for M5 893 874.
The document warns: “Cuts in operating costs are just an impossibility if we take account of the need to maintain our existing facilities minimally.”