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Teachers Union of Malawi declares sit-in

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Teachers Union of Malawi (Tum) on Thursday evening declared that teachers in the country are going to withdraw their labour effective Monday, June 5, due to government’s failure to pay teachers 2016/2017 leave grants.

In a statement that Tum president Willie Malimba and secretary general Charles Kumchenga have signed and Malimba read out during a press briefing in Lilongwe, the union accuses government of ignoring its numerous reminders.

Malimba said Tum advised government to pay leave grants in December last year, then extended the period to April this year before extending it further it to last month to no avail.

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Tum president said on January 20 this year, Tum wrote the Secretary to the Treasury (ST) to fund teachers’ leave grants by the end of March and in that letter the ST was made to appreciate that it has always taken threats of industrial action for teachers to be paid.

And that it was the intention of Teachers Union of Malawi that the 2016/17 fiscal year leave grants should be paid without any industrial action. To our dismay, the Secretary to the Treasury or indeed any other government official never bothered to respond to our letter,” Malimba said.

He said when it came to the union’s attention that the government would not be able to pay the said leave grants, Tum wrote the government again and released a press statement on February 2017, extending the deadline to the end of April.

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“No government official took the trouble of responding to the said submission and the leave grants were not paid in April 2017 as demanded by Tum,” he said.

When Tum followed the matter up in the early days of May, according to Malimba, it came to the union’s attention that government was arranging to pay the leave grants to secondary school teachers only, leaving out all over 63,000 primary school teachers.

The union says some secondary schools have received their leave grants together with May salaries but all primary schools and some secondary school teachers are still waiting and that waiting will be done through a sit-in.

“Teachers Union of Malawi wishes to emphasise that government takes full responsibility of the aftermath of this industrial action through its negligence in dealing with this matter with the urgency it deserved. All parents and guardians are therefore advised to take note of this development and advise their wards appropriately,” Malimba said.

Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec) has backed Tum’s decision.

Csec Executive Director Benedicto Kondowe, who was present at the press briefing, said government is the first duty bearer and was supposed to treat teachers with the respect they deserve.

“It is within their constitutional and labour rights to opt for an industrial action if they feel the employer is failing to address their grievances. If we are to have quality education, then teachers must be given what is deservedly theirs. Leave grants are an entitlement; they [teachers] are not beggars,” Kondowe said.

Treasury spokesperson Alfred Kutengule said leave grants are processed by line ministries and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is better placed to tell the whole story.

Acting spokesperson in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology Lindiwe Chide said Treasury already instructed the ministry to advise local councils to furnish the Treasury with relevant information about the teachers who are supposed to receive leave grants.

“Leave grants are now being processed by local councils and we already advised councils to provide information. The Treasury is planning to pay them in this month of June,” Chide said.

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