The University of Pretoria was in total lockdown yesterday following industrial action by the National Education, Health & Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu).
Three people were arrested when police and private security fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters. Students told Saturday Citizen via WhatsApp that some of them had been locked in the library. Nehawu protesters just outside the main gate in Lynnwood Road were removed.
According to Nehawu general secretary Bareng Soke, the strike was aimed at getting the employers to act on their demands after the union had waited for the university to resolve an impasse over a new wage offer – but that did not happen.
Nehawu demanded a 10% increase, but the employer offered them 7% and R3 000, which they rejected. They instead negotiated a new raise of 8%. They also demanded the introduction of more medical aid scheme options, claiming the current one was expensive.
“The employer want to impose schemes without the input of labour,” Soke said. UP spokesperson Candice Jooste said Nehawu members broke through a fence to enter the campus.
“Police fired stun grenades and tear gas to disperse them. No injuries were reported but three protesters have been arrested.”
Jooste added the university would not permit any disruptions to the academic programme. Nehawu chairperson Joseph Makhasa said the strike would continue until their demands were met.
“Aluta continua. Tomorrow, we will continue striking and they can’t stop us,” Makhasa said. Jooste said the university believed the offer was reasonable and that employees would be earning above the industry average.
“But we will not compromise our own financial sustainability. The university respects workers’ right to protest and appeals to them to do so within the ambit of the law,” she said.