SAHIWAL: Around 23 daily-wage employees are protesting and demanding extension of their 90-day service contracts with the University of Sahiwal (UoS).
As the Punjab government did not approve the university’s budget worth Rs200 million for the previous as well as current fiscal years, the daily wagers could not be paid under a notification issued on July 31. The other authority to issue salaries was the vice chancellor (VC) whose post was lying vacant for three years.
Twelve years ago, Bahauddin Zakariya University (BZU) set up a sub-campus here that was later converted into the autonomous UoS. The sub-campus was started in 2005 in a rented building of Government Post-Graduate College. Later, it was converted into an autonomous public sector university under a Punjab government Act in 2013 with 70 acres allocated for the UoS campus.
The government promised to allocate funds, but failed to do so during 2015-16 and even in 2016-17. Faculty members were given opportunities to either move back to their mother institution, the BZU, or be absorbed in the newly established UoS. Most went back, while others joined the new campus.
A source in the campus told Dawn on anonymity that a complete transition had to be made where BZU would hand over administrative control to the UoS. But there was no progress on it.
Varsity without VC, syndicate since establishment
The Punjab government also failed to appoint a permanent VC for the newly established university. In 2015, the higher education department (HED) gave additional charge to Dr Rauf Azim, VC of the University of Education Lahore, to run the affairs. The department also formed a Chancellor Committee in 2015 whose one-year tenure lapsed in 2016 with no appointment of a VC. It was the job of both the VC and the committee to form the university’s syndicate, but to no avail and all of the university’s affairs remained unaccomplished. The university’s affairs were managed by Campus Director Dr Shafiq.
Among the 27 employees on contract, 23 worked on daily wages in the Class IV category, including peon, watchman, baildar, gardener, sweeper, clerk and security guards. The contracts of these employees and daily wagers were renewed every 90 days.
Recently, the Lahore High Court while disposing of a writ petition had banned induction, renewal and re-engagement of daily-wage employees in public sector universities. The decision stated that all posts should be advertised and filled. Following a finance department order, the HED had issued a letter dated July 31 regarding advertisement of daily-wage posts.
Assistant Registrar Ghulam Ali Asghar told Dawn that following issuance of the letter they could not revise contracts of daily-wage employees.
“The advertisement of posts is the jurisdiction of a VC or syndicate, but neither are functioning here in the UoS,” he said. This was the reason the university did not extend 90-day contracts of the 23 daily wagers since June 26, he added.
Baildar Khalid Baig claimed that for five months he had not received his salary. Sweeper Imran Masih protested that it was not his problem the Punjab government had not employed a VC.
These daily wagers protested in front of the commissioner’s office and at the press club. Asghar said the administration was sympathetic but could not do anything. The protesters demanded the university administration extend their contracts and re-engage their services.
Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2017