LUMS' lesser employees
There’s been a hue and cry over the esteemed Professor Hoodbhoy’s controversial departure from LUMS university, and justifiably so, if his claims are proven true. However, even further into the seedy underbelly of the university administration’s dictatorial tactics, is a story that incites far more moral outrage.
Two days before Eidul Azha, 16 janitors, many who have been working at the university for years through a contracted janitorial company, were fired without notice.
Well, it’s a long story.
After the janitors, with the help of students, demanded that their salaries be raised from (the illegal) Rs7,000 to (the minimum wage) Rs9,000, the administration reluctantly gave in. What they didn’t inform the staff or the students about was that, to ‘balance out costs’, it would involve ‘letting go’ of people for whom LUMS has become a means of livelihood.
As a LUMS alumni myself, I can’t wrap my head around this moral hypocrisy. The very ethos that one of the best universities in this country purports to represent – producing members of civil society one can be proud of in our struggling country – has been turned on its head by this shameful display of elitist apathy. This is asymmetrical classwarfare at its worst and most blatant.
To put the situation in perspective:
The actual amount of money that’s been cut in terms of basic salary is a mere Rs 162,000 in total. My questions to the university administration are – isn’t that approximately the salary of one person in the upper echelons (but not even quite on top) of the management?
Would it really have been so difficult to find a way of cutting Rs 162,000 elsewhere?
And if the argument is that there would have been additional costs of, let’s say, more brooms, uniforms and so on to add to that – was that meagre amount worth making 16 people lose their livelihoods because they demanded minimum wage?
And to top it all off, LUMS has admitted in the past it requires a janitorial staff of at least 105 people for operations. With 16 familiar faces gone, the number stands at 86.
Will this understaffed and overworked group get compensation, bonuses maybe?
They have been told that they will be fined Rs 100 for every complaint received about their designated work area.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s a simple and clear-cut case of a human rights violation.
Read more by Heba here or follow her on Twitter @hebaislam