After four months of negotiations, the union finds the university’s offer “fair” .

The Wits National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) has accepted the university’s offer of a 6.9% salary increase plus R3 800 once off.  

The agreement, signed on March 23, was the culmination of negotiations that started in November 2022 when the union demanded a 15% salary increase for 2023. There was deadlock after the university countered with a 5.5% offer. 

Thabo Modise, Nehawu Wits secretary told Wits Vuvuzela that, “Picketing started on March 6, 2023, because the [university’s] offer was below the consumer price index (CPI) which is 6.9% for the year 2023.”  

Apart from the salary increase Wits Nehawu was demanding that “parking fees be reviewed as we think the fees are unreasonably priced for the staff. We want to contribute to parking fees, but we want to see how the university calculates the amount it charges the staff,” Modise said.  

The union was also demanding a staff housing subsidy “because the majority of the staff in Nehawu do not have houses”, according to Modise. 

Wits Nehawu members picket in front of the Wits Great Hall on March 23. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho

He told Wits Vuvuzela that the 6.9% increases was a win for the union as it was a fair offer, and it benefited all workers. “Our main goal as a union is to ensure that members have fair working conditions and that there is no abuse of power by the employer.”  

Other union demands that have not yet been resolved include the issue of night shift, that the university should provide transport that drops workers at their individual locations, instead of the current policy of dropping everyone off in Parktown. The union expects the outstanding matters to be resolved by April 25.  

The university spokesperson, Shirona Patel, told Wits Vuvuzela that they had considered the financial affordability and sustainability for the university while also paying attention to the need to maintain the livelihoods of staff when they calculated the salary increase. The university enters negotiations with the recognised unions such as Nehawu and the Academic Staff Association of Wits University yearly. 

“Only about 40% of Wits staff belong to a recognised union. Sixty percent of Wits staff are not members of a recognised union. It was prudent for management to observe good labour relations practice by concluding negotiations with Nehawu before exercising its prerogative to apply the agreed increases to all eligible employees,” Patel said. 

A maintenance worker belonging to the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa told Wits Vuvuzela that he did not know why his union had not taken part in the picket, but that he was happy to benefit from the salary increase negotiated by Nehawu. 

Nehawu was not only striking at Wits. Its members were on strike nationally, along with other unions in the public service, demanding a 10% salary increase whereas the government was offering 3%. 

After some unions accepted the government’s final offer of an average 7.5% increase for the 2023/24 budget year, Groundup reported on March 28 that “Nehawu says it will not consider the 2023-24 wage agreement with the government, which other unions have signed, until a deal is reached on 2022-23 wages.” 

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits Nehawu members wait on March 23 to hear from chairperson Sam Mandela about the university’s latest offer. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho