BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA
BINDURA University of Science Education (BUSE) workers are up in arms with the university administration staff over alleged unfair labour practices after they were forced to take vacation during the lockdown period.
This came after the university registrar Majaure Neusu wrote a memo dated January 3, 2021 saying that workers would be asked to take leave as a measure to decongest the campus.
“In order to decongest the university campus against a background of rising cases of coronavirus, heads of department should draw up and maintain a daily register of staff reporting for duty and submit it to the human resource office on a daily basis,” Neusu wrote.
“Encourage and allow members of staff with at least 30 days to proceed on vacation leave; allow and encourage members of staff with underlying medical conditions to proceed on vacation leave during this period.”
Neuso added: “The majority of staff shall take time off for five days. Five days will be deducted from everybody except for the following essential categories of staff who will be expected to report for duty on rotational basis, grounds and service staff, drivers, admin staff and those involved in examinations.”
However, the instruction did not amuse workers who challenged the decision, with BUSE workers council chairperson Justice Kasiroori arguing that the forced leave was illegal in terms of law.
“Reference is made to your communication dated January 3, 2021 in which you indicated that leave days for members of staff will be deducted because of the lockdown situation and your call for members of staff to continue reporting for duty during this pandemic,” Kasiroori said.
“May we point out to you that such a move is illegal under the Labour Act (Chapter 28:01). We would also like to point out that as management your proposed action is tantamount to punishing employees for the global pandemic instead of trying to protect workers. Consequently, we view your pronouncement as null and void as it cannot be legally enforced.
“Higher and Tertiary Education is not viewed as a critical sector during such a global pandemic and is not listed as one of the sectors that are covered by the exemption. It is, therefore, irresponsible for university management to be forcing workers to come and congregate about the university premises in direct violation of the said statutory instruments.”
He added: “May we point out that the vice-chancellor of the university himself has been working from home since the onset of the pandemic, which we would like to believe is leading by example.
“We as workers expect the university to capacitate workers to be able to carry out their duties from home and maintain a skeletal staff complement on the premises as is being done by other universities during the lockdown.
“As workers’ representatives may we call upon the university management to engage workers in order to map a way forward given that the COVID-19 pandemic will be with us for a long time. We are prepared to do our part in embracing the new normal for the betterment of the BUSE brand.”
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