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. . . rejects plan to suspend strike

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

MASERU — The National University of Lesotho (NUL) has rejected a plan by lecturers and researchers to suspend their strike for only two weeks because it wants a lasting solution to the labour dispute.
The lecturers and researchers went on strike on October 7 demanding a 15 percent pay rise as well as a review to narrow the salary gap between lecturers and associate professors.
Operations at the university ground to a halt on Tuesday when non-academic staff also downed their tools, demanding that the management stops the ongoing restructuring programme which they said was “unfair” and “illegal”.
The management responded by closing the institution indefinitely.
Students were told that the university will remain closed until management and the striking workers have resolved their differences.
On Friday the Lesotho University Teachers and Researchers Union (Lutaru) informed the management that they were now prepared to suspend the strike and resume classes tomorrow.
The union said they will resume the strike after two weeks if their demands were not met.
The management however told the union that it was not prepared to reopen the college for only two weeks.
It said it would only open the university after negotiating a lasting solution with the union.
“Today (Friday), 14th October, the university received a letter from Lutaru stating the union’s decision to suspend their strike for two weeks for ‘the negotiations process, teaching and research to resume’,” said Phomolo Lebotsa, the acting director of communications and marketing, in a statement.
“This action does not reflect a genuine move to solve the dispute and bring normalcy to NUL,” he said.
“The university is committed to resolving the dispute underlying the strike, but cannot afford the costs entailed. It is prepared to engage in negotiations to assure the stability of the university and an environment conducive to the education of students.
“To suspend the current strike for only two weeks will not help return the university to normalcy; it puts students in limbo and disrupts their education.”
“Thus, students, staff and the general public are advised that classes will remain suspended until further notice by the university management.”
On Friday NUL’s pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Mafa Sejanamane told the Sunday Express that the management believes that the union wanted to suspend the strike for only two weeks because they are afraid they will not be paid.
“The no-work-no-pay policy is very clear,” Sejanamane said.
“They are suspending the strike for two weeks because they want to protect their earnings.”
He said if Lutaru is genuine about suspending the strike it would have to negotiate “a lasting solution with the management”, adding that “People cannot stop and start work as and when they want.” “It will have to be a negotiated process.”
Lutaru president Ramohapi Shale however said the union members will report for duty even if the management does not reopen the university.
“We are going to attend classes on Monday. There will be students to teach as not all of them went to their homes. Anyway our work here is not just teaching,” Shale said.
Last December Lutaru members went on strike demanding a 15 percent salary increase and better working conditions.
The government, which is the main funder of NUL, intervened and the lecturers were given a seven percent increase.

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