Over eight thousand university workers affiliated with National Education‚ Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) have downed tools in a nationwide protest over a wage dispute, disrupting academic proceedings across various universities.
The strike, which kicked off last week, included workers from Durban University of Technology, (DUT), University of Pretoria (UP) and the University of Witswatersrand (Wits).
University of South Africa (Unisa) employees in Pretoria were on their second week of protest action.
Despite the demands varying in terms of salary increases and working conditions, the national demands include “a decent living wage of 10% across board”, the “de-Guptarisation” of the Unisa council and “insourcing of all ICT workers for more than 15 years”, Nehawu spokesperson Khaya Xaba said.
He told The Citizen that Unisa was not acting according to the Labour Relations Act that orders employers to promote qualifying fixed term workers to permanent employees.
“Unisa is the only university that has built a strong security presence around its main campus in Pretoria. Despite this we remain unshaken by the current deadlocked wage negotiations and we will continue to fight indefinitely until our demands are met.”
Reports allege that Unisa took to court to nullify the strike when Nehawu refused to accept their 7% wage increase offer which was much lower than the demanded 10%.
However, the court ruled that the strike was legal.
Deputy Minister of Higher Education Buti Manamela visited the Unisa main campus in Pretoria yesterday to consult and engage vice-chancellor and principal Mandla Makhanya and Nehawu deputy president Mike Shingana to reflect on the state of readiness ahead of the academic year.
Manamela expressed concerns about the impact the dispute would have on registration and preparations for the academic year, while urging both parties to ensure negotiations are speedily concluded.
But the ball was in Unisa’s court, Xaba said, as their demands were “genuine” and they could continue for several weeks if Unisa did not come to the table.
- According to Wits University it has four unions, Asawu, Nehawu, Numsa and Altsa representing about 5 300 permanent Wits staff members.
- The strike comes in the wake of an impasse in the salary negotiation process for 2018, it said.
- “The University is offering 6.8% for staff and 8% for employees on Grades 16 and 17 to 8% (nearly five points above inflation).”
- This is the second highest offer in the sector and the best the university can make in order to ensure its financial sustainability, it added.
- “On recommendation from the chairperson of council, an independent facilitator was invited to chair a facilitated re-engagement yesterday. The first facilitated meeting occurred yesterday in order to agree on terms of reference and pre-conditions, as suggested by the unions. The university has mainly online registration this week and no university activities have been disrupted. However, contingency plans have been made and will be implemented if required.”