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[LUSAKA] Researchers in Zambia are in the second week of a strike in protest against the government's alleged failure to improve working conditions.

The University of Zambia and Allied Workers Union, which counts more than 500 researchers as members, says it has written to the Ministry of Science and Technology on several occasions to resolve the crisis but has received no response.

Chrispin Munyukwa, the union's general secretary, told SciDev.Net that Zambian scientists have been employed without an agreement on their working conditions since the last one expired two years ago.

In January this year scientists at the National Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research threatened to strike if the government did not give them a 25 per cent pay rise and better housing allowances (see Zambian scientists threaten to strike).

In 2004, the government froze public servants' salaries. The measure was lifted last year when Zambia qualified for their debts to Western nations and to the World Bank to be cancelled under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative.

Since then the government has increased salaries in other sectors of the civil service but not in public research.

When SciDev.Net's reporter contacted the science minister's office on 14 June, he was referred to the permanent secretary of the ministry who was unavailable for comment.

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