Strike action to continue at Wits

Wits workers march down Jorissen street in Braamfontein on Monday, January 29. Photo: Ntando Thukwana

The workers’ strike at Wits University is expected to continue tomorrow, January 30, following an impasse in negotiations between the institution’s management and unions.

After lengthy engagements that started over the weekend, unions and Wits management met today in a meeting facilitated by an independent commissioner where the institution’s latest offer was discussed. By the end of the day though, no agreement had been reached and as a result the strike is set to move into its seventh day, according to Nehawu chairperson for the Greater Johannesburg region, Columbus Ncuthe.

Acting secretary for Nehawu Wits, Tumisho Madihlaba, said that the university’s newest offer is 7% for grades 5 to 8, 7,8% for grades 9 to 15 and 9.2% for grades 16 and 17. Wits had previously offered an 8% increase for the grades 16 and 17 with 6,8% across all other grades.

Ncuthe, told Wits Vuvuzela that, “They (Wits) proposed that for the lowest paid (grades) they are giving them 9.2%. That’s what’s in discussion now, among other things,” Ncuthe said.

He added that the long service award in cash form and medical aid increases formed part of today’s discussion. “If the parties agree then we might summarily suspend the strike,” he said.

Sam Mangena, chairperson of Wits Nehawu, speaking to the workers, addressed the no work no pay approach that the university had applied for the duration of the strike. He told the striking workers that the matter was under discussion with management. The draft offer from Wits suggested that workers may be allowed to use their leave for the work days lost during the strike action.

“We don’t want your money to be deducted,” he told the workers assembled at Solomon Mahlangu House this afternoon.

Wits Communications officer Buhle Zuma told Wits Vuvuzela that the university had plans in place to deal with the disruptions on campus. “Some University activities were disrupted (taps were opened so that bathrooms were flooded), but contingency plans have been put in place … Classes start on Monday, 5 February 2018,” She said.

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Nehawu on strike at Wits University

Workers at Wits University hold a picket in the Solomon Mahlangu House concourse on Tuesday, January 23. Photo: Odwa Mjo

Wits University staff affiliated to the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) have embarked on a strike following a deadlock in salary negotiations with the institution on Tuesday, January 23. This follows two weeks of lunchtime pickets during which the union engaged university management over annual salary increases.

Wits Nehawu acting secretary and spokesperson for the Unions’ Caucus – the joint representative body for Nehawu, the Academic Staff Association of Wits University (Asawu), the Admin and Library Staff Association (Altsa) and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) at Wits – Tumisho Madihlaba, told about 500 Nehawu members during Tuesday’s picket that Wits management had only revised the offer for grades 16 to 17 to 8% while the offer of 6,8% for all other grades remained the same. “They are saying they do not have a mandate to renegotiate or review the offer,” Madihlaba added. Members of Nehawu at Wits include staff of the security and cleaning services, sport administration, libraries and bus drivers.

“Cost of living has not remained the same since December 2014 when we signed that multi-year agreement of 6%. But this university believes that the 6% of 2014, we will still survive on,” he said.

Wits library staffer, Pisto Marema, told Wits Vuvuzela that union members were demanding a wage of at least R12 000 a month. “We need 9%. At least that can take us somewhere. As we sit now, most of us can’t even afford to apply for a bond,” said Marema.

According to Madihlaba, Numsa and Asawu will be joining the strike as of today, January 24. A statement released earlier today by the office of the vice-chancellor, Prof Adam Habib, confirms that Numsa intends to strike and has given the university 48-hour notice of its intention to do so. Asawu is set to hold a Special General Meeting with its members on Friday, January 26.

With less than two weeks before the academic year kicks off, Madihlaba added that strike action will continue until the union’s demands are met “We are going to shut down this university and management will not believe it,” he said.

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Q&A with Kanyisa Qaba

FIRST-YEAR BA Law student and fashion designer Kanyisa Qaba, has been running a clothing line, House of Manik, that caters for youth. She started the clothing line in high school with a friend, but has been running it as a solo operation since 2015 when the partnership ended. Wits Vuvuzela caught up with the 20-year-old ‘stylista’ to find out about how she draws inspiration from international trends and fits them in the South African fashion scene.

Kanyisa Qaba’s House of Manik                                 Photo: Provided

How would you describe yourself?

I would describe myself as a very motivated person, a very hard working person. I’m very direct and I also like to have fun. I’m a free spirit.

 

Why the name ‘House of Manik’?

I chose House of Manik by default. I wanted to name it Manik. When I was registering the company, Manik was taken so I decided on House of Manik.

 

How did the business get started and what was the inspiration behind it?

The business started out in 2014, first as Manic UK. The ‘Manic’ part of it, we just liked the name and then the UK stood for [the first letters of our first names]. When Unathi decided that she didn’t want to be part of the business anymore, I decided that “fine let me just keep the Manic but then change the C at the end of Manic, put a K which represents obviously my name, which is Kanyisa”.

What inspired the business was the fact that we didn’t want to ask our parents for money anymore. We thought, “Let’s do something for ourselves and let’s emancipate ourselves financially.”

 

How is your business funded?

I regenerate capital through sales and my parents have been very supportive of the whole thing. My mom put in an initial investment of about R10 000.

 

Who do you design for and why?

I have international trends in mind and things that will obviously sell. I am a business so I need to be able to keep the assembly line going. But I also have specific people like umama [my mother] for instance. She explored herself fashionwise in the 80s and 90s, so I take inspiration from her old clothes.

 

How do you handle varsity and running House of Manik?

It is tough because at some points, one has to fall. I have to just know what is right at the time. So obviously if I have a lot of work, I’d rather let the business kind of slide or take a back seat because at the end of the day I came to Wits to get a degree so that needs to be my number one priority. It has its challenges but it’s so rewarding.

 

What challengeshave come across?

There are so many people doing the same thing. So originality and just trying to express yourself as a fashion designer and as a business person without letting one of the components fall. That’s very challenging for me.

 

Who are your style icons locally and internationally?

I would say locally, my mother. Half of my stuff that I wear are hers from the 80s. Internationally, I would definitely say the likes of Rihanna, Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner. I like that very-high-fashion-but-comfortable look.

 

Do you get designers block?

I never get designers block. Sometimes I feel like there’s too much out there for me to even handle. My ideas are endless. I love designing, putting trends together and the whole creative process of coming up with a garment, trying to find material that will work. All those things for me are just so rewarding. I never get bored and I never run out of ideas.

 

What collection are you currently working on?

I’m really focused on selling Ebony and Ivory which is our current Spring collection. However, I am designing a capital collection which basically means that it’s a collection that is for the brand and the collection is going to be called Customs by Kanyi. So I’ll be starting off with my own ideas and making myself my own custom range and kind of spreading out from there. What I’m going to be doing with Customs by Kanyi is that I’m going to be making customised items for specific customers. So if a customer approaches me, I’ll try and take whatever idea or concept that they have and make it into a garment.