LUMS’ lesser employees

Published: October 31, 2012
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This understaffed and overworked group has been told that they will be fined Rs 100 for every complaint received about their designated work area. PHOTO: Campaign Facebook page- https://www.facebook.com/pages/Not-Just-BROOMS/293969880702683

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.

The reason?

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?

No sir.

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

Heba Islam

Heba Islam

Heba Islam is a sub-editor at the national desk at Express Tribune. She tweets @hebaislam.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • https://twitter.com/BajiPlease Baji Please

    Okay that’s a lot of math for a single day.Recommend

  • Ayesha Khan

    This will fall on deaf ears. The university’s VC is too busy tweeting all day long to be concerned about such menial things.Recommend

  • faraz

    LUMS is no bastion of enlightenment; its a business institution whose motive is to earn profitRecommend

  • M

    I’m sorry but you’re overreacting. LUMS obviously follows a business model, it is not a charity.
    Also, if they are hired through a contracted janitorial service, then LUMS simply reduced its demand of the number of janitors it now requires from the company. This company will find these janitors jobs elsewhere.
    On a related note, will you also be against ‘letting go’ of redundant PIA staff that has turned the airline into an absolute failure?Recommend

  • Sarah

    Who cares. Every organization faces a few administrative issues every now and then. It’s a just a university, not a federal ministry. This article should’ve been published in LUMS’ magazine, not in a national news agency.
    Get over it already.Recommend

  • Nadir

    I dont see how people can say what the big deal is. If you go around telling everyone that you are the premier educational institution in the country, then people will also have higher expectations from you. Not paying the legal minimum wage is a crime and travesty. Making excuses that oh they were under contract etc does not cut it, especially when its the LUMS administrator making the final decisions. These workers have to commute long distances to get to work, they cannot eat inside the campus dining facilities and now face the prospect of being fined if complaints are made. Essentially they are being penalised for protesting.

    @M: Protesting to be given th minimum wage is not charity! Its a right, not a privilege. If that is the case the many millions in scholarships that are doled out, is that charity as well?

    If there was ever an illustration of the dramatic inequality of every sphere of life this is it. PH vs LUMS receives all the attention, there is always sympathy and support for the student body, those at the bottom, the same affluent classes offer excuses that justify them being summarily made redundant.

    Where is the “change” now? Or is change only for the rich who just want to get on with dodging taxes, breaking the law and land grabbing to suit themselves? Recommend

  • Nadir

    @Sarah: If you dont care, why comment? so your saying that a university denies its workers minimum wage thats okay, but if a federal ministry does the same then its outrage? Recommend

  • I.

    What the hell is wrong with lums!Recommend

  • islooite

    Ya ya right but who cares?Recommend

  • Annum

    Class warfare can be seen at its best when people comment saying who cares just because they cant/ choose not to associate with the plight of those discussed in this piece. Great work Heba!Recommend

  • Khadija

    LUMS is a brand, and we’re its mindless advertisers. LUMS has lost its marbles, and it had very few to begin with. It can’t pay people minimum wage but it sure can double its class intake.

    LUMS is not Pakistan’s best university. Being better relatively speaking does in no way mean that something is good intrinsically. We need to stop having this line shoved down our throats about it being Pakistan’s “premier” and “elite” university. Since when was being elite a good thing? The sad thing is that the students of LUMS have this so ingrained in them that they go home to their drawing rooms and just nod along when an Aunty or Uncle declare that they have heard that LUMS is the best place to be. It isn’t. It’s as oppressive as any other university in Pakistan, it is just smarter about it.Recommend

  • Anon

    Mimi Fink For over a year I have been thinking LUMS a wonderful seat of learning affording equal opportunity for all. First the professor and now the cleaning lady fired without warning. This does not bode well for students where such callousness exists.
    Monday at 6:58am · Like

    Asad Ayuub Make no mistake, such issues do not reflect the over all standard of LUMS and neither issue makes LUMS any less ‘wonderful a seat of learning’..such shit goes on in the entirety of our country..in every other academic institution…where else have the students had this much a sense of Justice? Conscience? To risk their ‘wonderful seats’ at LUMS for the underprivileged ? This before you, what you see, is not LUMS at fault but the faulty policies of certain individuals…the students rallying for their janitor brothers are testify to LUMS’s ability to make change makers..LUMS should be proud of all these students for taking this stance. It means, LUMS has done its job.

    link: http://www.facebook.com/notes/not-just-brooms/the-short-story-of-rasoola/294979333935071?commentid=1356432&ref=notif&notift=likeRecommend

  • -M

    It’s amazing how people don’t care but yet, come here, read and comment. Whats the point of that? If you don’t care about anything, then simple sit in your room in your shell, and be happy. Be happy that today, its not you who’s job has been taken away, or its not you who’s been mugged and when it is you, then we’ll be sitting right here, asking who cares then!

    What has been done to these people is wrong, and the rest of us may not be able to to physically do something about it, but at least be supportive of the people trying to get their voices heard.Recommend

  • Historian 1

    Logically these janitors should be complaining to their “employing company” for salary issues and not to LUMS. Common sense must prevail.Recommend

  • Nadir

    @Historian1: It is the LUMS administration that is making the final decision, not the “employing company” why should they have to deal with a contractor who is nothing more than a puppet? Recommend

  • Obaid

    I think M (the fourth comment) is Mazhar Chinoy!Recommend

  • cynical

    why is an internal matter of lums being discussed here?Recommend

  • Kamil

    I assume this article was paid for by Brooms, the company that this is outsourced to.

    I believe LUMS pays between 11,000 to 13,000 per month for each janitor. The company, Brooms, who planted this article, then pays less than 7000 per month to the janitors and keeps the rest. LUMS has put its foot down and is forcing the company to pay the janitors a decent wage, which is why this campaign is being run. For Gods sake, don’t fool yourself and don’t fool others. How many of you pay your janitors Rs. 13,000 per month? Check and then throw mud at others. Recommend

  • Ayesha

    Wow.
    LUMS students think they need over 100 janitors!
    Talk about spoilt kids. Maybe they should start picking up their own trash for a few days.Recommend

  • Parvez

    LUMS got it wrong on the big issue (Dr.Hoodbhoy) and got it wrong on the small issue (16 janitors). Some introspection at LUMS seems in order.Recommend

  • ignorantways

    Well, it’s a long story.

    Pakistan Aeronautical Complex fired 300 employees without notice , any issue ??

    HoodBhoy lovers do you know we have lots of private universities in Pakistan other than LUMS.

    any university have all rights reserved in giving or not giving next contract to teachers.

    lets take an example
    a professor having 100+ journal publications working in NUST, GIKI , Bahria , IQRA , Islamic , Comsats etc etc have more worth than hoodbhoy but who cares about him/her ??

    so Seculars just SHUT your mouths. Recommend

  • http://caramelizedonion.wordpress.com Caramelized_Onion

    And the Anti-LUMS smear campaign begins.Recommend

  • Waqas

    When I was in LUMS a few years ago, the janitors were part of a separate business that offered services to LUMS (like security guards). Did that change?Recommend

  • Ali

    Right ..but Who CaresRecommend

  • Historian 1

    @ Nadir

    If you are a permenant employee of company A ( your parent company) and your company depute you to work for company B temporarily, Can you ask company B to raise your salary? The moment company B deem you are not required anymore they will send you back to your parent company. Your permenant employer I.e company A only is responsible for your job and salary matters. Hope you understand.Recommend

  • Muhammad

    Let me give you a fair legal perspective on this.

    The Corporate Veil. LUMS claims that since the janitors are employed by a separate business entity, it’s not liable or responsible for them. That doesn’t fly. Everyone knows that this separation has been done for precisely this purpose – avoiding legal responsibility. When a corporate entity like LUMS erects another corporate veil with the clear and discernible purpose of avoiding legal liability, then that doesn’t avail it. The veil stands pierced in the eyes of the law.
    Minimum Wage. Having established that LUMS can’t hide behind the veil of the janitorial company and is legally responsible for the fate of the janitors, it follows that LUMS is obliged to pay them the minimum wage. That, you say it now does. But what about all those months and years when it was under-paying them? I think LUMS is obliged to disgorge all that money and give it to them now. Everyone, even LUMS, is equal before the law. And a wrong needs to be compensated for retrospectively, that is, from the time it started to the time it ended. If you calculate this amount, it’d be a good sum. The poor families would pray for you.
    Firing. I don’t think you can keep LUMS from firing these employees. LUMS can do that. But it must give them 1 month’s notice. If can’t do that, it must pay them 1 month’s salary, so that they can make do, while doing a job search.
    Remedy. To begin with, from what I know about them, the higher ups in LUMS do listen, if communicate properly. Show them the legal postion. But, if LUMS doesn’t mend its own conduct, somebody should take them to court on the janitors’ behalf, just to make the point that LUMS should be as law abiding as it wants it students to be.
    Recommend

  • Nadir

    @Historian1: Actually yes you can. Company B cant claim ignorance of not paying minimum wage to workers by saying that they have outsourced some work. Again, if that was indeed the case, then BROOMS would be firing workers, giving written notices, instead its the LUMS administrator who is doing all this. Please look up minimum wage legislation. Hope you understand.Recommend

  • Historian 1

    @ Nadir

    “Actually yes you can. Company B cant claim ignorance of not paying minimum wage to workers by saying that they have outsourced some work”

    You are missing the point. COMPANY B (LUMS) IS NOT PAYING THE WORKERS. WORKERS DO NOT HAVE ANY PAYMENT CONTRACT WITH COMPANY B (LUMS). Technically and Morally Employer (BROOMS) is responsible for the welfare and wages (increment) as per the CONTRACT signed by the workers and the Labor Laws. IF the workers have signed a CONTRACT with BROOMS, than they ( workers) will go back to BROOMS once off hired by LUMS. Parent company (BROOMS) must raise the workers salaries as per the country Labor Laws or otherwise workers can complain in the Labor Court. Recommend

  • Silas

    The problem with tribune nowadays is that they don’t verify the official story and go on to publish news based on rumors. Same was the case with Hooodbhoy articles.

    And even if LUMS fired janitors, why is tribune so focused on lums nowadays. Don’t people get fired from other universities in pakistan. Aren’t there any issues in other unis all over pakistan.

    Lums is a private institution, and it will always try to reduce its cost. It is run by businessmen who have done a lot of charitable work but at the end of the day, they’re still businessmen and their aim is infinite moneyz.Recommend

  • Ali

    @M:
    You didn’t get it, LUMS still needs more janitors! Please read…Recommend

  • Ali

    @Historian 1:
    Brilliant – classic neo-libreal, its called externality or am I wrong. Recommend

  • Heba

    The point of this piece was never to be a ‘Lums ROX vs Lums SUX’ debate. It was to point out an issue, that reflects in a microcosm the essential problem with the lens through which we view class. Minimum wage is a legal right, regardless of whether it’s for a ministry employee or not.
    Also, Nadir is right. At the end of the day, Lums was responsible for the employment and unemployment of these people although a middleman company was used. The decision to fire the 16 janitors was made by the Lums administration. Recommend

  • Cynic

    I can’t believe M thinks the PIA has failed because of a large staff. Time to use google, M. Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    @Nadir:

    I don’t care either ways, but “if you don’t care why comment” makes little sense. She is commenting to express that she thinks the matter is an internal one. That’s all. Recommend

  • M

    @Cynic: wow, I can’t believe you don’t know about PIA’s over-staffing. It’s been a big news item over the past few years and is a major source of PIA’s increasing losses. Add to this the perks the PIA employees (both retired and serving) enjoy – free travel all over the world. Maybe time for you to use google? :)Recommend

  • http://hammadsiddiquiblog.com Hammad Siddiqui

    You are living in a capitalist (and confused) society where arrogance is the way of living for elites. Recommend

  • Sharjeel Jawaid

    LUMS [unfortunately] has become an icon of Corporate Capitalism.Recommend

  • Awais

    @ignorantways:
    U r right ,IN My opinionRecommend

  • just another non-luminite

    LUMS jaan diyo saddi wari aan diyo :)
    Tribune please hire some non-luminites as well so that we can read some better news. its like every week we read this and that about lums
    btw this is not even an issue and trust me the girl writing this article and those commenting also paying much less to people who clean their homes and cook foodRecommend

  • Laiq C

    In order to deliver on its core mission a for-profit enterprise has the right to reduce cost in other areas. Cost reduction often comes with painful cuts to labor force but that is part of business. I don’t fault LUMS for this. I hope the affected individuals will be able to find other sources of employment. It is painful to see such job losses, but I would rather see these losses than watch a top notch educational institute loose its edge due to poor cost management.Recommend

  • Maria

    hoti yeh pakpattan ki koi niggi university nobody would have cared. Grow a pair lumnites and pick your own trash, sad to see you rooting for more labor rather than education. is this what you are taught?Recommend