A salary is a form of payment from an employer to an employee which may be specified in an employment contract.
To employers, wages are an important tool for retaining workers.
While job satisfaction is important to most employees, there’s no doubt that salary and compensation are super important to keep the smile on an employee’s face.
The University of Zambia Lecturers and Researchers’ Union says it will take higher education minister Nkandu Luo’s call on its members who cannot withstand the perennial delayed salaries to resign as a Fools’ Day joke.
According to a news bulletin aired on Hot FM quoting Prof Luo, lecturers have a responsibility to contribute to resource mobilisation and those that feel neglected must find themselves better jobs as the government could easily replace them.
This is what elicited the rough reaction from the lecturers, who through UNZALARU secretary general Dr Kelvin Mambwe branded the minister’s sentiments “outrageous and appalling”, and represent her chosen way of celebrating April Fools’ Day.
“It is not our intention to prescribe to her what pranks she can unleash on our members and the public on this day, dedicated globally to playing practical jokes and spreading hoaxes. However, we urge the minister to exercise judgment even in the choice of the pranks she pulls. This is because jokes of disturbingly poor quality, like the one broadcast on Hot FM this morning, have the potential to provide inglorious inspiration to one or more of her colleagues in Cabinet who, in a needless race to the pettiest and most despicable joke for April Fools’ Day, may appear on another platform to proclaim that ‘President Edgar Lungu and we in the PF government have no plans to sustain public universities, especially the University of Zambia (UNZA) and Copperbelt University (CBU), because we do not value higher education and the need for it in the country’,” he said.
“We would like to believe that the Minister of Higher Education is yet to take leave of her senses and retain the mind to think of more harmless and funny April Fools’ jokes to dish out for media and public consumption.”
“We trust that tomorrow (today), 2nd April, she would revert to being serious and immediately act to avert a looming work stoppage at both UNZA and CBU owing to the delayed payment of salaries for workers for the month of March,” said Dr Mambwe. “Otherwise we may be persuaded to believe that Luo is not only consciously digging the grave for UNZA and CBU; she is also frighteningly arrogant, impervious to advice, incapable of humility, unaccepting of criticism, and enthralled by vanity.”
This is no ordinary reaction; it is a harsh rebuke of Nkandu. But did she deserve such rebuke from the lecturers’ union? Did she attract the wrath on her head?
The University of Zambia as well as the Copperbelt University have faced this problem of delayed salaries for a long time now. And each time there are delays, the lecturers have often withdrawn their labour to force the government to pay. Now the situation seems to have reached acceptability – as a normal situation. It is not uncommon to hear of government departments and institutions going without salaries for months. While some are agonising in silence, others, with some cords to pull, do not hesitate to pull them.
Only last week the nation was treated to ugly pictures from Kabwe where the local authority’s workers protested against the non-payment of salaries. And for that they had ruling Patriotic Front cadres unleashed on them to assault them.
Zampost workers have also downed tools over non-payment of salaries. TAZARA workers are the latest addition to the list.
Deuteronomy 24:14-15 states that: “You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether one of your brethren or one of the aliens who is in your land within your gates. Each day you shall give him his wages, and not let the sun go down on it, for he is poor and has set his heart on it; lest he cry out against you to the Lord, and it be a sign to you.”
This piece of scripture throws focus on employee rights. An employee works for a boss, in this case the government, for a certain schedule and loses a certain amount of freedom as a result of that, doing so for wages that are necessary to pay for food, clothing, transportation, lodging, medicals, school, and even loan repayments, among other expenses.
And the government is only too aware of the compelling reasons why workers must be paid their salaries and wages. But instead of engaging all these demands for salaries, the supervisor, Nkandu, told the lecturers off.
Nkandu was not empathetic in her remarks. She sounds more irritated by the demands from the lecturers. She did not seem to weigh the gravity of her remarks. Even with one’s own workers, a sense of justice requires that you engage them in mature manner to gain their confidence.
Again this is not the first time that Nkandu has lost her head – lost reasoning. For a professor and minister, it is not good that you lose civility on issues affecting the majority of our citizens. When leaders become hotheads, then the nation is in trouble.
If the Minister of Higher Education has lost it – she cannot convince her counterpart at Ministry of Finance to release money for salaried workers in her ministry, then let her resign.
Lecturers just like workers in councils are not providing their labour for gratis. They are salaried and this also brings in other conditions of service that government must meet without delay. These people are on contract and when a contract is not met on time, the one abrogating it must be remorseful; call for an indaba to explain the challenge and map the way forward.
What is even worrying with Nkandu’s terrible attitude is that this very PF government of hers has been milking government coffers without remorse.
To date those ministers who continued receiving salaries and other benefits when Parliament dissolved ahead of the 2016 general elections have not repaid the ill-gotten allowances to the treasury. Given what they get, that money alone should meet lecturer’s dues.
The arrogance of this PF government has gone too far. Ministers are called honourable because they are supposed to be distinguished – to be above board – but what we are seeing from the PF Cabinet of Edgar Lungu is very worrying. Given Nkandu’s attitude before she finally removed student meal allowances and now her high-handedness against lecturers’ salaries, what is honourable, distinguished or eminent about her and the office she’s holding?
We feel she must resign and let level-headed people manage our education system.
Those who cannot lead must give way and allow others able to take the mantle.