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Men in academia at Wits have been urged to donate and contribute pads.
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Wits staff unions will resume their dispute over salaries with Wits management on Monday February 11, even though staff received two raises within the last 7 months.
The Academic Staff Association of Wits University (Asawu) suspended the dispute shortly before the start of last year’s final exams “in the interest of students”, and to negotiate with the newly-appointed members of management “in good faith”. Union members went on strike twice last August after negotiations for improved salaries, improved working conditions and more research funding deadlocked. They had demanded a 9% increase for support staff and payment for academics on the 75th percentile, which is the three-quarter mark in the range of salaries in the higher education sector.[pullquote align=”right”]“Staff are earning significantly less in January 2013 than they were earning in December 2012.”[/pullquote]
The Wits Council granted a 7.55% increase for academics and 6.8% for support staff in June 2012, and an additional 4% increase for all in January 2013. The yearly bargaining cycle was changed from June to January, meaning Wits will give staff their next raise in January 2014.
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Liz Picarra, Asawu vice-president, said management’s latest offer has not matched the costs of working at Wits. Parking and medical aid fees increased this year as they do annually.
“With these increases in medical aid and parking, academic and support staff are earning significantly less in January 2013 than they were earning in December 2012,” Picarra said.
But Yule Banda, Wits’ Human Resource manager, said the medical aid fee increase came with more benefits and was below the national benchmark. He added that while medical aid fees went up for 2013 alone, the salary increases covered an 18-month period.
In a statement, Asawu described the January salary increase as an imposition on its members that was made without consulting itself or support staff union, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu).[pullquote align=”right”]“You have to deal with the problem of renumeration and financial incentives.”[/pullquote]
Unions’ faith in new management team
Habib said he played a big role in salary negotiations at the University of Johannesburg, where he was a deputy vice-chancellor, in his public address during the appointments process in November. He proposed a “university pact”: an alliance between staff, students and alumni that will investigate how best to manage their demands.
Habib said it is a vice-chancellor’s responsibility to attract and retain top academic talent from competing universities.
“You have to deal with the problem of remuneration and financial incentives. If you bury your head in the sand and say the academy is an equal socialist space, you will never attract the kinds of people you need.”
Wits has commissioned a fact-finding inquiry into last year’s salary negotiation process which will be externally headed by Mark Antrobus, SC. It is expected to recommend ways to improve future negotiations.
Published in Wits Vuvuzela 1st edition, 6th February, 2013.
Katlego* perches on a wall outside the Cullen Library, an old Nokia in her hand. She shields the screen against the sun, so that the message is visible.
“Hope you will turn me into your personal slave,” one message reads. “Make me serve you and then reward me!”
“Whatever we might agree would be totally secret and safe with no strings attached,” says another. These messages are from Katlego’s lecturer.
“I remember the first time he sent me an SMS. He said something very explicit,” Katlego says.
She called the number back twice, not knowing who it was. There was no answer. “That’s when he sent an SMS, he was like, ‘Don’t call me, let’s just chat via SMS.’”
Katlego had never given him her number, and was initially surprised that he had managed to get hold of it. “But then I realised that he’s a lecturer. He can just look up my name and get my number.”
Katlego says she never considered reporting him. “It was so overwhelming; I thought, ‘OK, I’m just going to brush it off.’ I was a first year student, I didn’t want to jeopardise anything, didn’t want to get into trouble for getting a lecturer into trouble.
“I brushed him off. I told him look, you need to stop. He just said, ‘You can’t handle me, you can’t handle my attention’. But I told him that I was losing all respect for him as my lecturer. And I stopped replying to his SMSes.
“A man his age, it was really disturbing. Have you seen him on campus? He walks with his head down. He knows, he knows he’s surrounded by victims.”
Samantha* had a similar experience in her first year, when the same lecturer invited her to be his friend on Facebook. “He invited a couple of us black females on Facebook, including myself, lots of my friends. He sent one of my friends something really, really, really nasty. There are so many girls that I know. Actually more than six.
“If you ask any black girl who did [the subject] at some stage, they’ll tell you. He approaches everyone,” says Samantha.
Wanting to expose the lecturer, Samantha spoke to her friends, asking them to come forward. But they refused. “My other friend sat me down and said, ‘You don’t want to be that girl. You don’t want to be that girl that exposes the lecturer. You don’t want that reputation.’”
Samantha was unwilling to let Wits Vuvuzela see the messages the lecturer had sent her on Facebook, although she had kept them.
“He’d remember. He’d probably check all the girls he inboxed, and then he’d know. I want to do honours [in the department], so I’m not going to do that.”
However, Samantha is quick to praise the professor. “He’s such a good lecturer, honestly. He’s making changes in the department, good changes.”
Despite this, she admits that his advances on the young women that he lectures are “bad”.
“For me, it’s no big deal because nothing happened, I didn’t entertain it. But what if I was failing, what if I was poor? What does it mean for those girls?”
Yet another student, Ayanda*, has also been approached by the Wits lecturer. In her case, it was via Yahoo Chat. Ayanda claims that she wasn’t the only student approached by the lecturer, and she has friends who had a similar experience.
“He asks how you are and if you are interested in him. If not, he doesn’t mind. He doesn’t want a relationship, just sex. He has a relationship already.
“At first it was just creepy then it became sad. I honestly thought it was a joke, but jokes don’t continue for months.”
In response to Wits Vuvuzela, the lecturer in question has denied the allegations and said: “There are appropriate channels within the university for dealing with cases of sexual discrimination and harassment”.
A complaint can be laid with one of the counsellors at the Careers Development Unit (CCDU), after which “the process will be driven/guided by the needs and wishes of the complainant”, according to the unit’s sexual harassment policy.
The CCDU’s definition of sexual harassment is “any form of unwanted sexual advance, [which] can include physical, verbal or non-verbal behaviour”.
The student laying the complaint can choose not to pursue any process involving the alleged harasser, to get counselling, follow a process of mediation, or lay a formal internal complaint, resulting in a formal grievance and/or disciplinary process.
Can lecturers date their students?
Contrary to popular belief, relationships between lecturers and students are not explicitly forbidden.
The Wits human resources department has compiled a set of “guidelines” for lecturer-student relationships, which states:
“[F]or instance in the development of a romantic relationship, a staff member should consider carefully the possible consequences for him/herself and the student. Consensual romantic relationships with student members, while not expressly prohibited, can prove problematic.”
Wits Vuvuzela is investigating cases of sexual harassment that students have brought to our attention. If you have any information, please contact us at email@example.com.
Wits Vuvuzela will protect the identity of all its sources.
*Names have been changed.
Published in Wits Vuvuzela 25th edition, September 21 2012.
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
The dispute between Wits management and unions is not a short-term fix, and should be addressed “very consciously and deliberately” by incoming members of the Senior Executive Team, according to Prof Rob Moore.
The Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC): Advancement and Partnerships was speaking at a Leadership Forum, organised by the Academic Staff Association of Wits University (ASAWU) on Monday, to debate the type of leadership needed at Wits.
Vice Chancellor Prof Loyiso Nongxa will end his extended five-year term in May 2013, and his post has been advertised as a vacancy.
Speaking in his personal capacity, Moore said the dispute had created a stressful time, but it was commendable that academics could have heated debates with management in Senate meetings, and still enjoy tea and sandwiches “in a perfectly amiable manner at tea time”.
Witsies at the forum said the new members of the SET needed to focus as much on the practical needs of the university as they would on strategic planning.
Pontsho Pilane, 1st year BA, said the ideal vice chancellor was someone who had been a student and a lecturer long enough to know what the “gist” of Wits was.
“We need a leader who values the fact that the academic staff and students run the university, and if it wasn’t for them, there wouldn’t be a Wits University.”
The race is on
Short-listed candidates for the DVC: Academic post delivered public presentations on Tuesday.
Prof Kuzvinetsa Dzvimbo, currently Executive Dean of the College of Education at the University of South Africa, said he was “very, very” interested in having a childcare facility for staff use on campus: a joint demand by Wits’ three unions in the current dispute.
Dzvimbo, who holds degrees from Sierra Leonean and Nigerian universities, said Wits needed to strengthen its relationships with other universities on the continent.
Prof Tahir Pillay, former Deputy Vice Chancellor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said Wits must also look eastwards, and not forget that all of the top 100 universities are not in Europe and North America.
Prof Andrew Crouch, Dean of Science, said Wits was nearing the end of a phase of heavy infrastructural investment (R1.5bn in the past few years), and needed to build “academic proficiency on top of that infrastructure”.
Two of the three Wits unions will strike tomorrow August 28, after they declined management’s offer in negotiations.
Last-minute talks were held between unions and management on Monday afternoon to try and prevent a second one-day strike. The Academic Staff Association of Wits University (ASAWU), the Administration, Library and Technical Staff Association (ALTSA) and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU), jointly declared a dispute in May over a range of grievances including salary increases and insufficient parking.
In talks which ended around 5pm on Monday, management proposed (among others): a shift from the July-to-June pay cycle to a January-to-December pay cycle (to create a salary increase in January 2013), negotiations for next year’s salaries to begin next week, a written understanding of the 75th percentile salary benchmark, and a commitment to resolving non-salary issues by year end.
Joint union spokesperson Kezia Lewins said there was “insufficient movement” towards a resolution by 5pm, the time it had been agreed that negotiations would end.
“Given that no agreement could be concluded and management’s disinclination to continue with the negotiation process, the planned strike will go ahead,” Lewins said.
Lewins said management threatened to withdraw all the offers if Tuesday’s strike went ahead.
Dr Kgomotso Kasonkola, senior director of Human Resources, said only ALTSA accepted these proposals.
“It is regrettable that ASAWU and NEHAWU have rejected these offers without explanation or counter-offers, and have announced their intention to continue their strike action tomorrow,” Kasonkola said.
“Upon stating that they would be reporting back to their principals, Professor Ballim (Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic) told the unions “off you go!” Lewins said. According to a tweet from ASAWU (witsjointaction), the vice-Chancellor Loyiso Nongxawas not present during the negotiations.
How Wits stacks up against other academic institutions
The Human Resources department conducted a comparative salary analysis to show how Wits’ range of salaries compares with other research-intensive institutions.
According to the findings, a Wits lecturer earns between R393 900 and R590 850 per annum, while a University of Cape Town (UCT) lecturer earns a maximum of R427 311.
Kasonkola said these values do not show the full salary packages at institutions, but Wits is currently a “market leader” in academic salaries.
Also, the 7.55% and 6.8% increases granted to academic and support staff respectively were above the Consumer Price Index (CPI), pegged at 4.9% in July.
Management re-invited the three unions to the negotiating table over the weekend, nearly a month since their first strike on August 2.
The Wits Senate (the academic leadership forum) had called on the Wits Council to resolve the dispute “without further delay”.
Union members intend to picket at major entrances to Wits in the morning, and hold a rally on the steps of the Great Hall at noon.
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Wits strike set to continue until demands are met – Mail and Guardian