Hours before a visit by Deputy Minister for Higher Education and Training Buti Manamela to the embattled Durban University of Technology‚ the vice-chancellor has revealed a number of “truths” about the ongoing strike.
Professor Thandwa Mthembu defended himself against various allegations levelled against him by the three labour unions representing staff‚ who have been on strike for seven weeks over salary increments.
Staff‚ including academics‚ had their February salaries slashed and were slapped with lock-out notices last week following the ongoing industrial action.
“I have been accused of ‘failing to engage’ with the unions over the last six weeks of the strike. The truth is‚ I have written to labour and requested to meet with the three union leaders‚ I have accepted their memoranda and I have worked closely with management’s negotiating team and I have consulted with the EXCO of Council to try and find a solution.”
Mthembu said the university had revised its offer for salary increases “on eight separate occasions”.
“This 6.5% increase in basic pay and the 6.5% increase in the housing allowance will place the university into a R12 million financial deficit for 2018.
“The truth is‚ when the council increased its mandate from 6% to 6.5%‚ despite placing the university into financial deficit‚ this increased salary offer was designed to compensate staff for their expectation of the once-off bonus.”
He said the council had “reached its ceiling”.
On the issue of “no work‚ no pay”‚ Mthembu added that the unions were “well aware of the fact that while this was a legal‚ protected strike‚ the university was also adopting the no-work-no-pay principle as the relevant legislation allows management to do.
This was part of the discussions when the strike certificate was issued by the CCMA in December 2017 and it was clear when the picketing rules were finalised before the strike had commenced seven weeks ago‚” said Mthembu.
“The university acted within the confines of the law and when the unions took us to court last Friday‚ we presented the same position regarding the no-work-no-pay principle‚ which resulted in the union’s withdrawing their application to interdict the university’s implementation of this principle‚” said Mthembu.
The institution enforced a lockout of staff on strike on Monday.
“Staff have the option to accept the university’s salary offer and return to work‚ or they can continue to strike. The rules regarding a lockout will be enforced as per the law.”
Mthembu added that the no-work-no-pay principle would continue to be implemented for those on strike.
“For the February salary run‚ management docked salaries for about three weeks of the strike. For the March salary run‚ management will dock salaries for another three weeks or so that have just passed. The truth is‚ that management has continued to pay employee contributions towards pension‚ medical aid‚ group life‚ etc. just to ensure that our staff don’t default on these. Amounts advanced by the university towards these costs will be recouped later.”
Mthembu appealed to the unions to suspend the strike and return to the negotiating table.
“Remember‚ there is a vast majority of our students who come from poor and working class families. The truth is‚ this staff strike is compromising their future. Forcing the university to settle for a salary increase that will jeopardise future generations of DUT students is irresponsible‚ and it will no longer be allowed.”
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