Trade unions reject NUL Amendment Bill

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MASERU — Trade unions have rejected the National University of Lesotho (Amendment) Bill 2011 saying it is a self-serving piece of legislation designed to punish non-compliant staff. This is according to a report by parliament’s social cluster portfolio committee which was tabled in the National Assembly yesterday. The report was compiled following consultative meetings between the various stakeholders and the parliamentary body. The Bill was presented in parliament on October 26. The Lesotho University Teachers and Researchers Union (Lutaru), NUL’s Non-Academic Staff Union (Nawu), Congress of Lesotho Trade Unions (Coletu) and Concerned Parents Association all rejected the Bill saying it was merely a quest for unlimited powers by the university’s management. They further alleged that the draft law, seeking to align the National University of Lesotho Act, 1992 with the Labour Code Act 1992 “is a tool to victimise blacklisted staff members”. “This Bill is intended for NUL staff members who are blacklisted and who have been identified as obnoxious by university management,” Lutaru said in its submissions. The Nawu also rejected the proposed law arguing it will create more complications in the running of the university. “The non-academic staff considers Section 49 (2) as a provision that creates violation of the operational hierarchy at the university by establishing a statutory body working at the same level with the university council in terms of disciplining staff,” Nawu said. While the NUL Student Representative Council (SRC) supports the Bill, it notes that it should not be enacted for the sole purpose of dealing with the current industrial action at the university. “The Bill should also single out a specific body of the university to exercise powers of dismissal under the Act,” the SRC said. The Concerned Parents Association said “the Bill seems intended to enable the administration to deliver its ‘restructuring process’ without regard to the officials or statutory structures that should allow or disallow the process, and to take drastic measures against those who do not support the administration”. Coletu said the Bill should be withdrawn because its adoption would worsen an already volatile situation. “The Bill works against the security of employment of the NUL staff members, including tenure,” it said. However, the NUL Vice-Chancellor, Sharon Siverts, told the committee that the new Bill will help transform the university into a proper workplace where employees contribute effectively and efficiently.Siverts told the committee that in the absence of a statute outlining procedures to follow before an employee is dismissed “the employer’s legal framework has limitations that employees capitalise on and use the Labour Code to defend their misconduct”. The portfolio committee after the submissions recommended that since the Bill comes while the process of restructuring NUL is already underway the “government should be especially alert”. “Proper monitoring of the process by government is called for, so as to avoid lawsuits,” the committee says. “The new law should also not be used to victimise NUL employees as this could cause chaos in the university.” NUL lecturers and researchers went on strike on October 7 demanding a 15 percent pay rise. They also want the university to narrow the salary gap between lecturers and associate professors. NUL is set to re-open on December 28.

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