Wits academic and support staff unions have planned a rally through Braamfontein on July 19 and a one-day strike next month over long-standing grievances with Wits management.
The three unions jointly declared a dispute after annual wage negotiations faltered last month. Management announced a 7.25% increase for academic staff (Grades 5-9). But the Administration, Library and Technical Staff Association (ALTSA) and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) have demanded a 9%increase.
They received a certificate of dispute from the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), which provides legal protection for protest and strike action.
The two unions, along with the Academic Staff Association of Wits University (ASAWU), also made non-wage related demands in a memorandum to management, including a child care facility for Wits employees.
The unions began their protest action with a picket on Jorissen Street outside Senate House in June, coinciding with a scheduled meeting of the Wits Council. About 150 staff members lined the entrance of the basement parking in freezing weather, calling for support as Council officials and members of the public arrived.
Catherine Dryden, a librarian, told Vuvuzela that she has worked at Wits for over 20 years and earns less than R20,000.
“With my experience and my qualifications, I think it’s an absolute disgrace, and I think if I were a member of Council, I would hang my head in shame”, she said.
Deputy vice chancellor of finance and operations, Prof Patrick FitzGerald, said the university provides extensive information about its financial sustainability during negotiations. Last year, ASAWU’s proposed salary increase would have cost the university around R60m to implement.
“Enough is enough”.
“We care about this university, we are this university, and unless they start engaging with us, we are actually doing our students and the entire university community a disservice”, she said.
Nomasonto Baloyi, a data administrator at the Wits Arts Museum, said she has not moved to a job that could pay better because of the experience and benefits Wits offers.
ASAWU president David Dickinson asked Sakumzi Macozoma, Wits Council chair, for his views on the picket as he drove in. He responded, “I hope you’ve told them that we’re speaking to you, have you?”
Wits Communications manager, Shirona Patel, said management may not respond directly to the memorandum, but will continue with talks until next week.
Wits academics plan wage protest – TimesLive
Letter – Academics take stand – BusinessDay