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[LUSAKA] Scientists in Zambia protesting over their pay and conditions of employment say they will go on strike if their demands are not met.

Earlier this month, the University of Zambia and Allied Workers Union, which has more than 500 scientist members, urged the government to review scientists' pay and terms of employment. It says the current agreement expired two years ago.

In a letter sent to the Zambian science ministry on 2 January, the union wrote that scientists would be on a "go-slow" until a valid agreement is reached, and that they would call for a national strike if this fails.

Researchers at the National Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research (NISIR) have joined the protest, threatening to strike if the government does not give them a 25 per cent pay rise and improve their housing allowances.

The scientific community was left out when the government gave other public-sector employees these benefits last year, scientists at the NISIR told SciDev.Net last Friday (6 January).

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

The government seems reluctant to respond to the scientists' grievances.

SciDev.Net contacted the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Science and Technology, Paul Zambezi on Monday (9 January), but he declined to comment on the situation.

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