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NUL staff to hold talks over management decision

MASERU — Members of the Lesotho University Teachers and Researchers Union (Lutaru) will meet tomorrow afternoon to discuss the way forward after the management rejected their demand to have the no-work-no-pay decision reversed.

Talks between the management and Lutaru over the no work no pay decision reached the deadlock last Tuesday with both sides refusing to make concessions. The union is insisting that they should be paid full salaries for the three months the university was closed because they made up for the time lost during the strike.

The management however says it cannot pay those salaries in retrospect because the lecturers did not work when they were supposed to. Desperate to avoid a strike, the government has appointed a mediator to help resolve the dispute.

The two parties met on Tuesday last week at a meeting chaired by the mediator. This was the first time the two parties had met in weeks after Lutaru decided to cut communication with management.

The meeting however failed to break the impasse. The Sunday Express understands that although Lutaru members will make a concrete decision tomorrow there is a strong group within the union pushing for a strike. The university opened last week but lectures are scheduled to start on Wednesday. If Lutaru decide to go on strike the university will have to send students back home.

A council member told the Sunday Express that if Lutaru members do not report for duty they will shut the university and implement the no-work-no-pay policy again. Sources within the management said the management is afraid that if it reverses the no work no pay decision it will set a wrong precedence. “In any case how are we going to justify that payment?

“Do we call it a salary, an emolument or overtime?” said a senior management official. “It will also be illegal and we can’t justify in the financial regulations of the university.” It is however understood that there are some in government who believe that the management must make some concessions to Lutaru’s demands“for the sake of peace and a new start”.

Some are however worried that paying the lecturers would open “flood gates” that might put the government in a fix in future labour disputes. Lutaru initially threatened to withhold examination results as a strategy to force the management to pay their salaries for the three months in which they were on strike. The idea was that without the results the university would have to postpone the graduation ceremony. The lecturers later agreed to mark the examinations after the government intervened.

The union said it was doing this to give the government’s intervention a chance. Although the government has managed to get the management and lecturers talking, it has failed to get them to agree on a solution to break the impasse over the salaries. There is now a danger that unless a deal is cut in the next two days the lecturers might boycott classes.

Lutaru members went on a three months strike in October last year after negotiations over better salaries and work conditions collapsed.The lecturers and researchers also complained that they were being marginalised by the management. In retaliation, the management closed the university and suspended salaries for the striking staff.

When classes resumed in January, after the three-month strike, the lecturers demanded their December salaries but the management refused to pay.

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