Limkokwing University of Creative Technology began the new year by laying off 52 staff members, most of them being citizens.
The information that Sunday Standard received initially was that no single non-citizen had been retrenched. The university’s spokesperson refuted this allegation, presenting her own permutation of the retrenchment.
“The Limkokwing staff complement comprises of 86 percent locals and 14 percent expatriates. From the overall retrenched figures 16 percent of the local staff population was retrenched while 23 percent of expatriates staff was retrenched,” she said.
In raw figures that translates into 46 citizen retrenchees and 6 non-citizen retrenchees. With specific regard to the difference between the number of citizen and non-citizen retrenches, Thebe notes that the retrenchment was based on “required expertise.” She added that acting in accordance with the principle of “first in-last out”, Limkokwing also took into account “the need for the efficient operation of the undertaking and the ability experience, skills and occupational qualifications of each employee concerned.”
In the telling of citizen retrenches, they were purposefully targeted because of their militancy which they expressed through their membership of a trade union. One manifestation of such militancy was refusal to wear Limkokwing’s corporate colour – black. An employee says that most of the retrenchees belonged to the union.
Conversely, the university provides what sounds like a perfectly reasonable explanation. Beginning late last year, staff members were told that due to dwindling student numbers, there was desperate need to “right-size” ÔÇô which employees understand to mean “retrench.” A December 1, 2016 letter signed by Professor Cedric Bell (Africa Vice Chancellor) says that “over the last years, the number of students studying with us has consistently and considerably declined and in view of the university’s management, the campus is no longer sustainable as currently constituted.” According to his figures, Limkokwing had 7247 students in 2013, the number had dropped to 3142 last year and this year expects to enroll 3068. However, TAWU contests the accuracy of these figures, arguing that they are misleading because they don’t include the Target 20 000 programme students whom Limkokwing has enrolled.
For now, the storm appears to have passed and it may be six months before another rolls around. A page of a slide presentation that explained the retrenchment to staff states: “It is imperative that the university recruits well for July 2017 – failing which a second phase of right-sizing will need to be implemented as after graduation group of 800 in August 2017, only 2000 students would need delivery services.”
Either by design or otherwise, the retrenchment has wiped all but one office holder of the union branch leadership. The latter is said to have been as inactive as to not have attracted management’s attention. A retrenchee says that in the event that the ill-fated like himself are rehired, the university would ensure it pays them lower salaries, wean them off trade unionism and get them to acquiesce to wearing black. According to a collective labour agreement between the university and union, employees that are laid off shall be recalled in accordance with their length of service and “no new hands in the same category shall be employed while regular employees are laid off, provided such regular employees desire to return.”