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Teachers Union of Malawi in trouble

Chikondi Chimala

Boniface Dulani

The government has decided to stop collecting union fees, amounting to K500 per teacher per month, which it collects and remits to Teachers Union of Malawi (Tum).

People privy to the issue confided in The Daily Times Thursday, saying the decision has been arrived at to remove the element of forced membership.

Tum has 76,000 teachers in its member books and the government has been collecting K38 million for Tum from the teachers every month.

However, Ministry of Education spokesperson Chikondi Chimala said he could not comment on the matter, saying issues of deductions from salaries were private between individual and employer.

“Payment of salaries for teachers was decentralised to councils; as such, we cannot be commenting on decisions which, if they were made, were made at council level,” Chimala said.

Malimba said yesterday that he had no information pertaining to the government’s decision to stop collecting K500 from teachers on Tum’s behalf.

In another development, the government has obtained an injunction stopping Tum from continuing with the strike it ordered its members— namely teachers in primary and secondary schools as well as lecturers in teacher training colleges (TTC)— to embark on from Tuesday.

The Tum president confirmed that the government has obtained an injunction against the teachers and TTC lecturers’ strike.

Asked if teachers would go back to work today, Malimba said Tum officials would be meeting officers of the court today to be briefed on the same.

In the meantime, inside sources at both Tum and the government have confided in us that Tum’s accounts have not been audited for the past five years, meaning that mystery surrounds the whereabouts of the K2.28 billion that Tum leaders have collected during the past five years.

Meanwhile, Chancellor College political analyst Bonface Dulani has said he sympathises with the union but was, at the same time, of the view that membership to any union should be voluntary.

He said it would be ideal if teachers themselves were willing to be members of Tum individually and they could arrange with the government to say “we are members of Tum and deduct this much from our salaries and remit to the union”.

“It will be a tall order to ask every teacher to be remitting that K500 directly to Tum but I feel that this should be done with consent from the teachers. I am not a lawyer but that arrangement of forced membership to Tum could see the government being dragged to court one day,” he said.

But Dulani said was not surprised with the development, saying the move could widely be seen as aimed at weakening Tum, which has been disagreeing with government on Covid money.

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