Resolve CBU Boycott Amicably

IT is rare for members of staff at Zambia’s public universities to go on strike and, when they do, there is certainly cause to worry.

This is because any work stoppage by workers at the universities, or any higher institution of learning for that matter, affects the smooth operation of these institutions in all areas.

The withdrawal of labour by Copperbelt University employees is no exception. If anything, we expect that everything at this Government-owned university is on standstill because nearly all employees, who are members of the three unions appear to be involved in the strike.

These are members of the Copperbelt University Academic Union representing the teaching staff and a cadre of largely general workers who make up the Copperbelt University and Allied Workers Union.

Others are those who belong to the Copperbelt Senior Administration and Technical Staff Union who, by virtue of them being relatively better remunerated, do not normally resort to strike action to press for their demands.

This then means that generally, all CBU staff members have obviously one common grievance which has forced them to down tools and, as reports indicate, this has mainly to do with the issue of bread and butter.

Previous cases of university andor college unrest have involved the student populations only, whose reasons for their actions have ranged from inadequate allowances to the general student welfare.

For instance, students at Government institutions of higher learning have usually boycotted classes or taken to the streets pressing for bursaries, adequate accommodation as well as improved sanitation. In the process, the students have engaged into some of most unfortunate incidents, including damaging university and college property, blocking roads and thus inconveniencing road users, some of whose motor-vehicles they have either stoned or burnt.

The students ‘misbehaved’ even in instances where they had been an alive branch to discuss their grievances with management with a view to coming up with a negotiated settlement.

Fortunately, work stoppages involving staff members have never seen any such ugly incidents and we owe this to the mature manner in which these protesters conduct themselves. Of course this in no way implies that we are in support of any strike action, especially that nearly all these work stoppages have been illegal.

This is because, as we indicated earlier, the current strike action by CBU members of staff is aersely affecting the running of the institution in all its areas. For instance, involvement of the academic staff has affected the students who can no longer attend lectures because there is no one to teach them.

Meanwhile, failure to perform functions by administration staff effectively brings to a standstill all administrative matters relating to the running of the institution. In addition, downing tools by the general workers means a halt to such functions as cleaning student dormitories, ablution blocks and surrounding areas, thus exposing the whole premises to health dangers. All these have potential to bring into the strike action the students,

whose record in such matters has often included the widely condemned riotous behaviour, which no one wishes should happen at any learning institution anywhere in the country.

It is true grievances by striking CBU workers are genuine. But the method they have adopted to try and have their demands met is certainly unacceptable. For this reason, we implore them to meet higher authorities, be they university management or Government representatives to reach an amicable solution and, in the process avoid bringing the students into the drama.

Source : The Times of Zambia

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