Nust lecturers are not back at work

National University of Science and Technology

IN response to Nust lecturers back at work: The National University of Science and Technology Educators’ Association (Nusteda) is not impressed with poor public relations gimmicks being played by the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) director of information and public relations, Felix Moyo.

Nusteda is also disappointed by misleading and misinforming statements made by the Student Representative Council (SRC)’s president, Lucky Muza.

Last but not least, the association is appalled by poor journalism that has been practised so far by all media houses that have reported on the union’s suspension of services from part-time lectures they were offering to Nust parallel and masters students.

From ZBC, to the Southern Eye, the real issues concerning this suspension of services have not been represented well.

As a result par t time students who are supposed to be receiving services from these lecturers now even have the guts to rudely refer to the lecturers’ action as a, “selfish strategy”.

Nusteda’s official response: Nust lecturers have resumed normal work after embarking on a three-week go-slow in protest at the institution’s failure to pay them their salaries. It is Nusteda official position that the suspension of services by lecturers in all part-time programmes is not a go-slow or a strike.

It is simply a total suspension of services in reaction to the university management’s breach of contract to the lecturers concerned.

It should be made clear that lecturers entered contracts with the university management in which they would provide their services and get paid upon fully providing these services.

For two semesters (second semester of the 2012 to 2013 academic years, and first semester of the 2013 to 2014 academic year) lecturers worked their hearts out during evenings and on weekends, but up to now they have not been paid.

Having had a meeting with management on February 28, and being told that they might be paid in full in 2015, it is clear that the university’s management has breached contracts signed in previous semesters and they are in repudiation of contracts signed in this current semester since they would clearly not be able to pay for services provided once the semester is over.

It does not take a rocket scientist to realise that if you are in a contract and one party does not keep their end of the bargain and further indicates that they it not be able to stick to the dictates of a running contract, it is as good as not being in any agreement at all.

It is for this reason that lecturers, as learned and wise as they are, decided to stop offering their services.

Management clearly does not prioritise paying them for services they offer. Management is in breach of previous contracts, and they are in technical repudiation of the current semester contracts, so this is not a strike.

It is not a go-slow. It is a total ‘cutting off’ or “withdrawal” or “suspension” of services following the university management’s breach and repudiation of contracts. There is nothing illegal about it!

“I can confirm that the lecturers at the university have since resumed delivering their services to the parallel students and in line with missed lectures. Each lecturer must do something to cover the missed lectures,” Moyo said.

“Nust Students Representative Council president Lucky Muza also confirmed that the lectures had resumed work — It is true that the situation is under control as the lecturers who had embarked on an illegal go-slow initiative have since resumed their work,” he said.”

Nusteda completely denies this. This is a thick lie. Management never sat in any meeting with Nusteda in which it was agreed that lecturers were going to resume delivering their services to parallel students.

Actually it was the chairperson of the Nust senate, Lindela Ndlovu (who is also the vice-chancellor of the institution) who declared to senate that deans of faculties and chairpersons of departments were supposed to order lecturers to resume delivering their services to parallel students and hand in names of those who were not doing so to the registrar.

He based his declaration on a meeting that had transpired at the Labour and Social Services ministry offices on March 18 2014, in which the labour officer Gijima stated that the lecturers had not given a 14 day notice of intention to strike before suspending their services.

She also said that since they were attending conciliation meetings at the Labour and Social Services ministry, the suspension of services had to be called off during the talks.

It is in this light that those who were representing the Nust management then informed the vice-chancellor that the suspension of services by lecturers was illegal.

The real issue here is that neither the labour officer nor the Nust senate has any power to determine the legality or illegality of the lecturer’s suspension of services.

We have not been to the courts, from where this determination should be obtained.

Neither Gijima nor Ndlovu is a judge or magistrate, or labour relations arbitrator.

This was communicated to the Nust management in a two-paged letter written by Nusteda’s legal representatives Kossam Ncube&Partners.

The Union met on March 20 and its members declared that there was no way they were going to be harassed and intimidated into offering their services to students, especially when it was clear that the Nust management was in breach and repudiation of part-time contracts offered to lecturers.

At this meeting the resolution was affirmed, that until all lecturers had been paid all their outstanding dues, they would not resume offering their services.

Lecturers said no one would force them to work after hours and during weekends without pay.

They said it was better to spend that time with family and friends, resting, rather than to be forced into institutionalised slavery. This is Nusteda’s position.

Moyo and Muza must have great senses of imagination, or they are great dreamers. If that is not the case, then they must be great liars.

Lies worsen the internal situation and they encourage an unnecessary “war of words” in the media, thereby worsening the situation and tainting the image of the institution in the eyes of the media-consuming public.

Moyo should have just said, “There is a crisis, but we are engaging our lecturers and a solution will be reached soon. Students are going to learn and once we are through this bad patch students will be compensated all time lost during this unfortunate crisis.”

The association cannot be blamed and demonised for seeking to correct the record.

“We are close to writing exams and the lecturers decide to embark on such a selfish strategy. We have not even completed course outlines, but they decide to abandon us. It is not us who owe them, but the university and seriously we do not expect to be part of their disputes,” a student said.

Nusteda feels deeply for parallel and masters students who paid their fees but are no longer receiving any services. The association apologises to students.

It is rather unfortunate that when elephants fight it is the grass that suffers. Nusteda wishes there had been a better alternative.

Nusteda tried to negotiate with management by asking them to pay what they owed lecturers, even in part payments, so that students would not be disadvantaged.

It is just unfortunate that Nusteda’s several trips to the bursar and registrar’s offices did not pay off. It seems the Nust management does not respond to civility and rationality.

The truth of the matter is that no student enters the Ceremonial Hall to write exams without having paid their fees in full.

Even if the students owed certain amounts of money to the institution it should be clear to students and the general public that lecturers would not have suspended their services had they been paid amounts that are proportional to what students paid.

Nusteda wishes to let everyone concerned know that part time programmes are self-funding or self-sustaining programmes. Lecturers claim their wages in proportion to what students have paid. They eat what they have gathered.

The university’s management should get their 15 to 35% share and leave the rest to departments that offer these programmes. It is this remainder that is then used by these departments to buy stationery, equipment and also pay wages for these part-time programmes.

Now that the lecturers have not been paid anything for two semesters, does it mean that students never paid anything at all?

From whatever students paid, the university was just supposed to take its 15 to 35% share and let departments manage the rest.

Even if students still owed something, lecturers would get paid proportionally to what the students had paid, with the remaining amounts being settled upon students completing their payments.

However, for two full semesters, lecturers have not been paid a single dime, thus the justified suspension of their services.

It baffles Nusteda to see that students think that lecturers are the ones who are being selfish. Get this clear, there is no service provider who continues providing services without getting paid.

If there is a breach of contract, services are cut off and efforts are maximised to recover all the money being owed by the one who is supposed to pay up that money.

Lecturers have financial obligations and that is why they offer their services at night and during weekends for a fee.

If someone does not pay their wages as agreed in part-time contracts lecturers begin to fail to keep up with financial obligations for which they would have budgeted that anticipated income.

“Muza said the SRC would monitor the lecturers and ensure that students completed their courses despite the setback. However, the disgruntled students who pay more fees than conventional students said they were not happy with Nust and felt robbed as they had not had lectures for close to three weeks.”

Muza is misguided. The SRC does not have any mandate to monitor lecturers. His council has actually failed to advance the rights of the students’ who are being affected by lecturers’ suspension of services.

Instead of dreaming about monitoring lecturers, Muza and his SRC should concentrate on getting answers from the Nust management on when students will receive services for which they paid fees, as well as answers on what the management is going to do, considering that examinations are just around the corner and parallel students are not learning.

 Nusteda hopes that next time they comment to the press, Moyo and Muza will speak nothing but facts. Sometimes it is better to keep quiet.