NEHAWU STATEMENT ON THE STRIKE ACTION AT NELSON MANDELA UNIVERSITY AND UNIVERSITY OF PRETORIA

Wednesday February 28, 2024

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] condemns the reluctance displayed by the management of the Nelson Mandela University [NMU] and the University of Pretoria [UP] respectively on the ongoing strike actions. 

As NEHAWU, we are extremely disappointed by the failure of the managements of both NMU and UP to resolve the genuine demands of our members. Both management teams of the two institutions have not demonstrated any empathy to the plight of workers. 

The strike actions at the two institutions occurred as a result of deadlock wage negotiations after the management of the institutions rejected the demands placed by our members. This led to the union declaring disputes at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration [CCMA] and ultimately strike certificates were issued as a result of the conciliations yielding no results. 

At Nelson Mandela University [NMU], we placed the following demands amongst others to the management: 

  • 10% increase in salary inclusive of CPI (6.9% + negotiated % of 3.1%)
  •  Housing Allowance: R1500 for permanent staff and R750 for half day. Housing allowance to increase per year with the CPI percentage.
  • Medical Aid to have a 60:40 percent split in payment, with the university subsidizing the full 60%, due to high fees of the medical aid in the country increasing every year. 
  • Harmonisation of Salaries – Equal pay for Equal work

The management of NMU responded with an offer only CPI and 0% on the negotiated portion of our demand. Equally, they did not accede to any of our demands on medical aid and housing allowance. On harmonisation of salaries, they only agreed that it will be dealt with at the task team level.

At the University of Pretoria [UP], the management of the institution demonstrated that they care less about workers after offering workers a below Consumer Price Index [CPI] increase of 4%. As NEHAWU, we had placed the following demands:

• 7% increase

• 13th Cheque

• Once-off Bonus

• 5 Days Leave Encashment

• Long Service Cash Award at 10, 15 & 20 Years

The employer out rightly rejected all our demands and argued that there’s no money due to austerity, yet they gave themselves annual bonuses while preaching ‘austerity measures’ to workers. The ‘austerity measures’ is applied selectively with annual bonuses for Executive Management, continued outsourcing for the very same services that were insourced, hosting fancy events, senior management enjoying luxury accommodation, travels and restaurants amongst other wasteful expenditures.

The management of UP has displayed arrogance since the strike action commenced at the institution, even after the union tried to constructively engage with them to resolve the dispute, they continued with their posture against workers. After the collapse of negotiations, the union met with the Acting Vice-Chancellor and his management team when a reviewed proposals were made in order to resolve the impasse, however they were adamant of their position of rejecting our reviewed demands and/or proposals. Instead of engaging constructively with the union, the institution went as far as using intimidation tactics on workers through the usage of courts and unleashing police on workers.

Yesterday, the 27th February 2024, the institution brought an urgent application to the Labour Court interdict our strike, as a result NEHAWU, successfully defended the strike, picketing rules and an interim order was granted. The interim order granted by the court directs our members to comply with the obligations as set-out in the picketing rules, which amongst others include picketing in demarcated areas, no intimidation of other employees, violence, destruction of property and blockading of entrances.  Therefore, the strike remains protected and the rules as agreed upon remain intact.

As NEHAWU, we want to send a clear message to the management of the institution that workers will not be intimidated by them approaching courts in order to silence our genuine demands. We are more resolute and are continuing with our strike. Our members will continue with the strike and will do so within the confines of the picketing rules without breaching the court order.

Lastly, having noted the reluctance to resolve the impasse as displayed by both the management of Nelson Mandela University and University of Pretoria by addressing the genuine demands of our members, the national leadership of NEHAWU has now decided to be directly involved in the respective strikes to amongst others engage with the management of the institutions to resolve the disputes. The national leadership does this fully cognisant that these two institutions play a critical role as centres of knowledge production with workers being an integral component in that holistic process.

END

Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat

Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968; December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969; Lwazi Nkolonzi (NEHAWU National Spokesperson) at 081 558 2335 or email: lwazin@nehawu.org.za