There has been no resolution to the dispute between Wits management and unions, and the Academic and Support Staff Association of Wits University (ASAWU) has announced another one-day strike.
Last minute negotiations between management and the Academic and Support Staff Association of Wits University (ASAWU), National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) and the Administration, Library and Technical Staff Association (ALTSA), to prevent the one-day strike on August 2 failed.
ASAWU members will also boycott admin meetings and performance management from August 20, in addition to the withdrawal of services on August 28.
In a meeting on Tuesday August 14, members were given ballots to vote for additional action, with an indefinite strike being one of their options.
The unions had demanded a signed agreement to their demands, but “chose to walk out of the mediation process before it was concluded”, according to vice chancellor Professor Loyiso Nongxa. ASAWU President David Dickinson denied this, saying Nongxa was not present at the negotiation sessions.
The unions are demanding a 9% salary increase for support staff and payment to academics at the 75th percentile of the tertiary education sector. They also demand the establishment of a childcare facility for Wits employees, an end to overselling of parking permits in non-designated parking areas and access by their auditors to the university’s financial system.
Union decries silent treatment
Dickinson said they were met with silence after the strike.
“The first communication of any kind from management is the letter sent out today [August 13] by the vice chancellor to all Wits employees. This message fails to engage with the issues raised by the three unions and their members. It is a slap in the face of Wits lecturers and support staff.”
Nongxa said management did not have a mandate from the Wits council to grant the 9% increase, but proposed a shift from the July-to-June pay cycle to a January-to-December pay cycle. Staff could get a pay rise in January 2013 together with the increase received in July.
Nongxa said the proposals made by management were realistic and asked for “similarly constructive responses” from the unions.
“In the current context of declining state subsidies, the cost of higher-than-average salary increases may have to be carried by already heavily-burdened student fees.”
ASAWU seeking solidarity
ALTSA and NEHAWU are consulting with their members on further action. Dickinson said he hoped they joined ASAWU’s strike and boycotts.
During the previuos strike, Nongxa said the university could not be coerced into meeting the unions’ “unsustainable” demands.
“One would have assumed that, in an environment where we think about these things, that you can come with reasoned solutions to these problems, rather than resorting to a strike.”