The two aggrieved Wits staff unions do not need to embark on an indefinite strike, says Administration, Library and Technical Staff Association (Altsa) president Adele Underhay.
Underhay met with Altsa members on Wednesday to update them on negotiations with Wits management. Altsa signed the 2012 wage agreement the day before the second union strike in August. This left the Academic Staff Association of Wits University (Asawu), and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) deadlocked with management.
“We felt that management came back and they had moved considerably on a lot of issues,” Underhay said.
The three unions jointly declared a dispute with management in May over a range of grievances, most notably salary increases.
On the morning of the second strike, some Altsa members expressed disappointment with union leadership for “breaking ranks”.
Underhay said she tried to be reasonable, although her point of view may be shifting.
“We need to get new blood into the negotiating team … maybe I’m not seeing things clearly anymore, maybe I’ve been in it too long.”
Asawu gave its members the option to vote for an indefinite strike as a way forward but they chose to boycott administrative meetings. It also considered suspending the strike until next year, when there will be new members of senior management.
“It is clear that the current management plans to talk itself out of office and make the problem that of the next administration. The unions have now run through the entire Wits senior leadership and it is clear that there is nobody with whom negotiations can reasonably take place,” the Wits Joint Union spokesperson said.
Prof Rob Moore, deputy vice-chancellor: advancement and partnerships, said management was committed to resolving the dispute “as quickly as possible”, and was grateful that strikes had not caused further disruption of academic activities.
Published in Wits Vuvuzela 25th edition, 21st September 2012