Unproductive meeting with management has left unions with unresolved issues

Workers say they were left frustrated after a meeting that took place between Wits management and union leaders last Tuesday, July 17, was “unproductive” as a number of their issues were not addressed.
According to the chairperson of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) at Wits, Sam Mangena, the meeting had no direction.

“Management called for this meeting but there was no agenda. There was no agreement on a number of issues and a lot of other issues were not even discussed,” he said.
Wits workers who are members of the Academic Staff Association of Wits University‚ the Admin Library and Technical Staff Association‚ the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and Nehawu held a two-week long strike in January demanding a salary increase of 9%.

Mangena told Wits Vuvuzela that when the strike ended in February an agreement was reached after workers had handed over a list of grievances to management.
The list included having allowances increased to “industry norms”, the re-instatement of the financial component of long service awards and the “transformation of Wits for workers”.

According to acting branch secretary of Nehawu at Wits, Tumisho Madihlaba, “We as workers and union members gave management a memorandum of issues and the agreement was that they will be resolved by June this year. Management only resolved one of our issues which was the issue of the salary increase.”

Mid-level earners received a 7 – 7.8% salary increase and there was a 9.2% increase for low-income earners.
“The movement of staff in Grades 16 and 17 to midpoint was attended to but we are in dispute regarding implementation date. [Management] want to implement next January, we wanted it implemented 1 July [2018] in line with the agreement to resolve by June.

“But also management refused to reinstate the long service award, claiming that it was discretionary and not necessarily a policy. We are in dispute on these two issues,” Madihlaba said.
Mangena told Wits Vuvuzela that, “Management wants to start negotiating salaries for 2019, but that is a no go. We cannot move forward until we resolve the current issues. We need issues to be discussed and resolved this year, not next year.”

Hans Radebe, a member of the Numsa committee who has been an insourced Wits employee since March last year, told Wits Vuvuzela that he felt union leaders could do better.
“I am disappointed because I feel that as our leaders and representatives they did not do enough for us. Union leaders told us that our issues will be resolved by June but nothing has been done. As grade 17 workers, we should have been moved to grade 16 workers by now, but we have been told to be patient,” said the 46-year-old.

Madihlaba said that issues such as “salary and grade harmonisation, allowances, medical aid supplementation of 1%, transformation and staff development” should have been resolved by the end of June.
“It was, however, agreed at the meeting that we will decide if we want to continue to address them through mediation or facilitation.

Wits human resources director Dr Kgomotso Kasankola, who was at last week’s meeting, told Wits Vuvuzela that, subsequent to the meeting, “The university sent an email on 19 July to the union conveying its support of the initial option to refer all the outstanding issues and disputes to mediation.”

No date has been set for the next meeting, but according to Madihlaba, it would happen before August 8 as agreed.


FEATURED IMAGE: Grievances over the grades and wages remain issue amongst unions                           PHOTO: Palesa Dlamini