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UP goes the legal route after chaotic birth to semester

AfriForum Youth lamented that the first day of classes on campus was chaotic and demanded action.

The courts have ordered University of Pretoria (UP) staff to desist from disrupting the institution’s daily operations.

UP said it obtained the order against the striking employees after they disrupted operations at the Hatfield, Pretoria east, campus on February 19.

The disruptions outraged students as many had started their 2024 semester.

The strike is allegedly part of a wage dispute between the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and UP, which turned into a protected strike last week.

This thrust UP to host classes online temporarily as the disruptions lasted almost four days, with students unable to access the campus because of blocked-off gates.

“Due to ongoing strike action and illegal obstruction to entrances at UP Hatfield, some classes will temporarily move online,” the university announced via social media.

“This decision will affect classes conducted on the Hatfield campus only.”

Spokesperson Sashlin Girraj confirmed that the university had served court papers on the striking workers on February 22, informing them that the order sought to maintain safety on its premises amid ongoing strike action.

“The court order seeks to prevent striking workers from engaging in certain activities that could disrupt the operations and safety of the university community.”

The court orders the following:

– Restricting picketing activities to the demarcated area of the university’s Hatfield Campus engineering gate, as agreed upon in the Picketing Rules.
– Prohibiting picketing near or on any other of the university’s campuses, except in the designated area.
– Prohibiting intimidation of non-striking employees, replacement labour, or any other individuals.
– Preventing obstruction of vehicles or traffic entering or leaving the university’s premises.
– Ensuring no blockage of entrances or gates on any of the university’s campuses.
– Allowing access to all members of the public, including visitors, employees, students, and service providers.
– Prohibiting any unlawful or violent actions, including intimidation, coercion, threats, assault, or property damage.
– Enforcing a minimum distance of 100m from any entrance of the university’s campuses, except in the designated area.
– Restraining any unlawful interference with the university’s operations, activities, and academic programmes.
– Prohibiting any violent or unlawful conduct in pursuit of wage demands, including harassment, assault, prevention of services, interference with traffic, and property damage.

Girraj said the university also emphasised the importance of upholding the rule of law and ensuring the safety and security of all individuals on the campus.

“The university is committed to resolving labour disputes through constructive dialogue and within the framework of the law,” he said.

AfriForum Youth manager Ronald Peters said he was disappointed by the unrest at UP and of striking employees who were intimidating students and denying them access to the campus.

Peters said the first day of class at the campus was chaotic, and the youth organisation demanded action.

He said a large number of the campus security personnel were part of the strike, which left campus security vulnerable.

He said the UP management had enough time to take the necessary precautions to ensure that the academic year kicked off without problems and that the strike did not interfere with lectures and students’ safety.

“UP management must now fulfil its responsibility and ensure that students who want to enter or leave the campus can do so freely and without fear of intimidation. Students’ safety must now be prioritised,” Peters said.

The strike began on February 15.

Nehawu Gauteng secretary Mzikayise Tshontshi said the salary negotiations deadlocked after the employer rejected all employee demands.

According to Tshontshi, UP had demonstrated that it had less regard for its workers.

“The employer continues to insult workers by offering a below consumer price index [inflation] increase of 4%.”

Tshontshi vowed that Nehawu would embark on industrial action and the strike action would continue indefinitely until their demands were met.

The following demands were made to UP:

– 7% increase
– 13th cheque
– Once-off bonus
– Five days’ leave
– Long service cash award at 10, 15 and 20 years

“Workers feel insulted and undermined by the management of the institution, which continues to give themselves fat annual bonuses while preaching ‘austerity measures’ to poor workers,” Tshontshi said.

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