After four days of mediation before the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitrary (CCMA), the industrial action at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) continued on Monday. This is after the council proposed mediation as part of the negotiations to reach an amicable solution to the ongoing wage dispute at the institution.
On Monday, workers gathered at the Steve Biko Campus courtyard, chanting and dancing to revolutionary songs while waiting for their representatives to address them. This has been their routine for the past four weeks and they remain resolute in their demand for 10% fee increment. Meanwhile students are walking in and out of campuses, some with the hope to get assistance with registration process. The protesting staff is clear that they will only be dealing with students once they reach an agreement with the management.
A staff member who asked to remain anonymous due to being not authorised to speak to the media said that the current situation was causing damage but the management remains oblivious to this concern.
“This is causing more reputational damage that not even billions of money can fix. Other institutions are watching and the whole country is watching,” he said.
He added: “The institution needs us more than they realise. They currently have over 25 000 students but they can’t do anything to help those poor students without us, so they need to take us serious.”
The ongoing wage battle remains unresolved at DUT but the management is however, adamant about commencement of the year’s academic programme, set to start on 13 February.
Alan Khan, the director for corporate affairs at DUT said in a statement that the management is working with the student representative council (SRC) and will ensure that they assist students to register over the next few days.
“The executive committee of Senate at DUT has decided to start lectures on Tuesday 13 February. Despite the challenges of ongoing staff strike, the university has registered more than 18 000 students for the 2018 academic year,” he said.
Despite the management’s optimism, the SRC president Siphephelo Mthembu rebuked the pronouncement, saying that the argument of when classes will commence is not paramount at this point.
“We cannot commence with classes while we have almost 50% of our students still not on the system, it won’t be fair on them. Even if classes were to start, who would teach the students since lecturers are still on strike? The decision to start with classes depends upon whether the management and the staff reach a consensus,” Mthembu said.
Mthembu said that the SRC was in solidarity with the staff members and hope they reach an amicable solution with the management soon.
“We don’t want to find ourselves in a position where we have to be under pressure with assignments and tests, where students will be expected to deliver everything at once due to the lost time,” he said.
Union representatives are expected to meet with the vice chancellor later on Monday to continue with negotiations. The unions have vowed that should they not reach any agreement with the management, they will shut down the Steve Biko, ML Sultan and Ritson campuses on Tuesday.