The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and other unions have been on strike at the University of Witwatersrand since last week. But over the weekend negotiations took a positive turn for workers resulting in the end of the strike on Wednesday afternoon.
On Wednesday Nehawu, Numsa, the Administrative, Library and Technical Staff Association (ALTSA) and the Academic Staff Association of Wits University (Asawu) signed an agreement with Wits officially ending the workers’ strike.
In an interview with the Daily Vox, Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi said Numsa members were satisfied with Wits’ new proposal that was presented over the weekend during negotiations between unions and Wits management.
“Wits management presented us with an offer on Saturday afternoon which we deliberated on until late into the night and brought back to our members who accepted the terms,” said Hlubi.
Wits’ original offer was an 8% wage increases to its lowest paid workers (pay grades 16 and 17) and a 6.8% increase for workers on higher pay grades. According to documents seen by the Daily Vox, Wits’ new proposal over the weekend offered an 9.2% increase to workers in grades 16 and 17; a 7.8% increase for pay grades 9 to 15 and a 7% increase for grades higher than grade 9 and academic staff.
Hlubi said the proposal was favourable to Numsa as most their members were among the lowest paid in grades 16 and 17. The new proposal effectively elevated these wages to that of grade 15 – abolishing grade 16 and 17.
However Nehawu were not initially satisfied with the new proposal and continued their strike up until Wednesday morning.
Nehawu’s national spokesperson Khaya Xaba told the Daily Vox that Nehawu had two demands that they wanted addressed before they would end the strike.
Their first issue was that Wits wanted worker bonuses to be determined on the basis of performance – where the amount workers’ receive would be decided by supervisors and managers assessing individual workers’ performance during the year.
“This is not acceptable, the bonuses need to be guaranteed and fixed. Wits proposal leaves workers open to manipulation and favouritism by supervisors,” said Xaba.
Nehawu’s second issue claimed that workers’ were racially discriminated in terms of wages. Xaba said that white and lighter skinned workers are paid more for doing the same work as black workers.
Spokesperson for Wits, Shirona Patel, said that the allegations that workers’ wages were racially determined in any way was abjectly incorrect.
Nevertheless, on Wednesday unions and Wits management came to agree on the proposal established over the weekend with Wits committing to further engagement on issues raised by Nehawu, but not granting them. In addition, dog handlers and drivers will now receive a 10% wage increase, a meal allowance per shift and access to night shifts with night work allowances.
Workers interviewed at Wits university said on Wednesday morning that they were thrilled with the outcome and would be returning to work on Thursday.
Featured Image Via WikiCommons