Strike looms as Wits workers reject 6.5% salary increase

Union members have said that they are willing to strike if negotiations with Wits management continue to stall.

Workers have threatened to strike less than two weeks before the academic year is set to begin, following stalled negotiations for salary increases and improved working conditions.

At a joint union members meeting on Tuesday, January 22, at the Great Hall, workers were up in arms after discovering that the concessions made with Wits management were far below their expectations.

In attendance were academics, administrative staff and supporting staffs from the various unions, mainly Academic Staff Association of Wits University (Asawu), the Admin Library and Technical Staff Association, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and the National Health, Education and Allied Workers Union.

The unions had met with management earlier in the day to discuss the demands of the workers but the negotiations remained deadlocked following a year of discussions between the concerned parties.

Workers were demanding a 9% increase across the board, but the University’s offer was 6.5% to 7% across different payment grades, according to Asawu president Anthony Stacey.

A professor at the Wits Business School, Stacey told Wits Vuvuzela that the concessions made by the university, which included the granting of 20 days paid leave for staff and a minimised taxation rate on staff’s 13th cheque, were not enough to satisfy the unions.

“We’ve got agreements on a few things. We’ve worked very hard in the last two months to get a working relationship.

“I’m afraid the last few days I’m less optimistic though. Now we’re starting to talk hard numbers, hard details and the collaboration from management doesn’t seem to be coming through,” Stacey said.

Several proposals have been made by both the labour unions and representatives of the University’s management in regards to 2019 salary increases, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment. 

“The parties continue to negotiate in good faith with a view towards reaching amicable resolutions on the outstanding issues. As a result of the ongoing negotiations, salary adjustments for January 2019 will not be implemented, except for employees on Grades 16 and 17 where an agreement was reached in 2018,” read a joint statement released by the Bargaining Forum on Wednesday, January 23.

Altsa president Ricardo Sao Joao says that a strike could happen if there is no agreement with management.

“At this point in time, I would say a strike is very likely based on the mandate we just received. I think that the general consensus is that staff are tired in many ways of being misused and abused and, ultimately, want to share in the wealth of the university,” he told Wits Vuvuzela.

Stacey, who is one of the union negotiators, was sceptical about the progress of the negotiations thus far and affirmed that the workers would be united if the call to strike was made by the majority.

“We are happy about the fact that we got agreement on a few of the issues but they are very minor. They are not substantive. I think there’s a wide variety of opinions amongst the union membership. So I think our job as leadership is to see how much progress we can make. However, if it needs to go to a power struggle, we’ll have to lead them.”

Other worker demands include bursaries for staff to study, increased night shift allowances, a R1200 housing subsidy and medical aid support. Negotiations continue.

 Union members congregate outside Great Hall to discuss progress of salary negotiations Photo: Tshego Mokgabudi


Wits Vuvuzela,Unions at odds with Wits management over post-strike agreement, July 28, 2018

Wits Vuvuzela, Strike action to continue at Wits, Jan 29, 2018

Wits Vuvuzela, Wits strike ends,  Jan 31, 2018

VC takes heavy criticism at townhall

Wits University hosted another townhall meeting with the vice chancellor last week to give staff and students the opportunity to raise questions with Wits management. 

It wasn’t a comfortable town hall meeting for Wits Vice Chancellor (VC) Professor Adam Habib last week. At the meeting held last Thursday, Habib came under heavy criticism mainly over the university’s stance on Israel and over the issue of unpaid electrical workers.

Rashaad Yusuf Dadoo, BA Law, used the platform of the townhall meeting to question Wits’ apparent lack of a stance on the conflict in the middle East and accused the university of having a political conscious only when it suited them.

Dadoo, who is a member of the Wits Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC), claimed that the university was quick to stand against xenophobia, in solidarity with Kenyan students, but failed to take up a specific stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“I felt the need to bring up the evident hypocrisy shown by the Vice Chancellor Professor Habib with regard to showing equal compassion and solidarity,” Dadoo said.

“I feel Professor Habib should show that compassion equally regardless of who the oppressors are,” he added.

He also claimed that the university had allowed the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) to bring an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier onto campus.

Habib was quick to deny this allegation saying the “soldier” was only a student wearing an IDF shirt.

Another member of the audience accused the VC of allowing racists to speak and mobilise on campus.

Habib, responded by saying that Wits is a place of free ideas where people are free to express their views even if they are not his views or those of the university.

Students took to Twitter after the townhall, to voice their disappointment in the VC’s response:

“APPALLED at the way VC <a href=””>@AdHabb</a> treated the <a href=”″>@WitsPSC1</a> as a group of Muslim fundamentalists who don’t stand for freedom of speech,” said Aaisha (@aaishadadipatel).

“@WitsPSC1 was received with such hostility, WHY? Our first question was nothing but respectful,” tweeted Courtney Morgan (@Courtz_RM).

Silent Protest

Electrical workers who have gone unpaid through this year staged a silent protest on the steps of the Great Hall before the meeting started. The workers, part of MJL Electrical, then walked into the hall and stood at the front of the stage for the duration of the meeting.

MJL workers have been in dispute with their employer, who has not paid them for over a month,  and have taken the matter to court.

Habib addressed the issue of the MJL workers by saying that the university would support them as a friend of the court.

He also said that it was not the university’s responsibility to guarantee the jobs of employees of outsourced service providers as it would set a precedent for workers from other service providers.

South Africans should be enjoying fruits of the freedom charter

NO MORE APATHY: Irvin Jim emphasisied the importance of meeting the demands of the freedom for equality and democracy. Photo:TJ Lemon

NO MORE APATHY: Irvin Jim emphasisied the importance of meeting the demands of the freedom for equality and democracy.
Photo: TJ Lemon

By Rofhiwa Madzena and Lameez Omarjee

The exploitation of the working class by “white monopolists” is the reason why South Africans will not fully enjoy the benefits of the Freedom Charter, said keynote speaker, Irvin Jim, at the Ruth First Memorial lecture in the Great Hall tonight.

Jim, the National Union of Mineworkers of South Africa General Secretary, spoke about the life and work of Ruth First, arguing that she sacrificed her life for a just and equal society.

He said: “We live in a safer, less threatened environment … For Ruth First, racial and gender oppression and national domination was not acceptable.”

Jim explained that the current socio-economic climate in South Africa contradicted the Freedom Charter which was developed in 1955 by the ANC ( African National Congress’). “… We are apathetic about the sufferings of millions of South Africans,” he said.

Jim said: “Ruth First was killed for our Freedom Charter. It is not irrelevant. She paid the highest price. We must feel her suffering, fear, the terror she faced throughout her adult life.”

Ebrahim Fakir, the 2014 Ruth First Fellow,also presented his research findings on political protest and political participation at the lecture. 

He spoke about “democracy, delivery and discontent”. He said there are close to 300 protests a year in South Africa, which indicates the remaining inequalities in our democracy.

Fakir based his research on the conditions in the Bekkersdal municipality, South-West Gauteng.  “Bekkersdal, is a microcosm of what is happening in townships across South Africa,” he said.  “I found a disaster and dystopia in Bekkersdal”.

Academics, students from Ruth First’s former high school (Jeppe High School for Girls) and others came together in honour of Ruth First at the annuam lecture hosted by the Wits University Journalism Department at the Great Hall.

“Ruth First was assassinated for her belief in the struggle for just, democratic, socialist, non-racial SA.”


To read Ebrahim Fakir’s full address, FinalRuthFirstLecture2014.EF

To read Irvin Jim’s full address, Irvin_Jim


R2K protest calls for an end to ‘rot and irregularities’ at the SABC

Protesters outside the SABC building at today's Right2Know protest against censorship. Photo: Lutho Mtongana

NO TO CENSORSHIP: Protesters outside the SABC building at today’s Right2Know protest against censorship. Photo: Lutho Mtongana

Right2Know’s protest outside the SABC in Auckland Park earlier today brought together a number of different organisations concerned with the issue of censorship at the national broadcaster.

Supporters from NUMSA (the National Union of Metal Workers), the Voices of the Poor of Concerned Residents of South Africa, along members of the general public gathered outside the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) building to challenge the “rot and irregularities,” at the broadcaster.

 These were the words of Dinga Sikwebu, the National Education Coordinator of  NUMSA, who added that “the SABC is turning into the state broadcasting megaphone for Luthuli House.”

The protest was held ahead of World Press Freedom Day tomorrow which celebrates the “hard fought freedoms achieved by journalists,” according to Dale McKinley, spokesperson of R2K. “We believe [these are] being violated by our public broadcaster … we are raising concerns about threats to these freedoms.”

The SABC has come under criticism recently with the banning of political adverts from ANC-opposition parties. In both cases, these decisions were upheld by ICASA, the broadcasting regulator.

The SABC focuses predominantly on ANC-related news, according to Sikwebu. “Yesterday was May Day and there were all the rallies, other than Vavi, everyone depicted on the [SABC] news was from the ANC.”

Protesters taped their mouths in protest against censorship. Photo: Lutho Mtongana

Protesters taped their mouths in protest against censorship. Photo: Lutho Mtongana

“What the SABC does is not right,” said spokesperson Eunice Manzini, of the Voices of the Poor of Concerned Residents of South Africa. She referred to the lack of broadcasting airtime given to those living in the townships and said, “The SABC must be a public broadcaster and not for the rich only.”

 The 3rd May 2014 marks twenty three years since the adoption of the Windhoek Declaration on Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic Media which was developed by African journalists in the spirit of press freedom.

R2K calls for an end to police brutality

An R2K rally against police brutality in SA took place this Human Right's Day. Photo: Roxanne Joseph

HUMAN RIGHTS: An R2K rally against police brutality in SA earlier today. Photo: Roxanne Joseph

Human Rights Day saw the Right to Know Campaign (R2K) hand over a memorandum calling for an end to police brutality in Joburg, earlier today.

The protest was held in an effort to express outrage at increasing police brutality and the growing attacks on the right to protest, according to R2K staff members.

“No one dies at a protest until the police arrive,” was just one of the slogans displayed on placards by protestors.

Cardboard coffins were lined up right outside the entrance to the Johannesburg Central Police Station, commemorating those who have died from police brutality during protests. Among those remembered were the 36 miners who were killed by police at Marikana in 2012.

Cardboard coffins lined the entrance to the Joburg Central Police Station. Photo: Roxanne Joseph

Cardboard coffins lined the entrance to the Joburg Central Police Station. Photo: Roxanne Joseph

The station commander, Chester Spies, received and signed the memorandum from R2K staff members and responded by saying he was “very happy to see a peaceful, law-abiding protest” take place on such an important day in South African legacy.

In a statement issued by the organisation just over a week ago they said “the police killings of protestors around the country are a symptom of the growing attacks on the right to protest in South Africa, fuelled by the militarisation of the police and criminalisation of protest”.

Station Commander, Chester Spies signs the R2K memorandum. Photo: Roxanne Joseph

Station Commander, Chester Spies signs the R2K memorandum. Photo: Roxanne Joseph

A number of other organisations and NGOs joined the protest, including the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), the Democratic Left Front (DLF) and Awethu.

“Protest is our only weapon. We will continue to protest because we know no other way,” were the parting words from R2K members.

The R2K campaign was launched in 2010, in response to the Protection of State Information Bill (Secrecy Bill) and has, over the years, broadened its scope to a range of related issues.

WITH VIDEO: Numsa protest rising unemployment

LEADING THE NATION: NUMSA supporters leading the charge against unemployment with sticks and loudspeakers on 19 March 2014 at Zoo Lake.                                                          Photo: Luke Matthews

LEADING THE NATION: NUMSA supporters leading the charge against unemployment with sticks and loudspeakers on 19 March 2014 at Zoo Lake. Photo: Luke Matthews

Increasing youth unemployment was the key reason for a march that started at Johannesburg’s picturesque Zoo Lake earlier today.

The National Union of Mineworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) went on strike today to highlight the high level of unemployment amongst youth in South Africa.

Numsa reported that youth unemployment in South Africa is the third-highest in the world and also said that every one in four people are unemployed in the county. The union added that 71 percent of all unemployed people in South Africa are between the ages of 15 to 29.

There were a number of protesters in EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters), t-shirts at the march along with miners and migrant workers. There were also a few protesters in ANC (African National Congress), t-shirts despite Numsa’s decision not to campaign for the ANC this year. The union said the ANC is an anti-working class party and they don’t provide enough jobs and services for people.

VIDEO: The marchers assembled at Zoo Lake in Johannesburg.

The Numsa protesters went from Zoo Lake to the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) offices in Rosebank. The march was a peaceful one with singing and dancing during talks given by speakers.

Cosatu under attack, who’s next?

Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary of Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), gave his lawyers instruction to challenge the CEC’s (Central Executive Committee), decision to place him on special leave after he was found guilty of having improper relations with a junior Cosatu employee.

Vavi claims that Sdumo Dlamini, Cosatu president, handed an intelligence report to the CEC members to discredit him and force him out of Cosatu. Dlamini has denied the allegations.

The report claims that Vavi and other prominent members of South Africa want to overthrow the government of South Africa.

National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) general secretary Irvin Jim said they have lost all confidence in Sdumo Dlamini and that there was a concerted effort by forces within and outside Cosatu to turn it from being a fighting Federation to a “toothless”, “labour desk” organisation.

Numsa said there was a “political conspiracy” to discredit Vavi and that state organs were being abused to spy on Vavi,

Numsa “worried” about Cosatu credibility

Vavi OUT, who's next?: Irvin Jim tells press conference political "forces" that got Vavi out are now after him and Numsa president Cedric Gina. Irvin Jim (Numsa general secretary) and Karl Cloete (deputy general secretary). Photo: Thuletho Zwane

Vavi OUT, who’s next?: Irvin Jim tells press conference political “forces” that got Vavi out are now after him and Numsa president Cedric Gina.                                                                              Photo: Thuletho Zwane

Irvin Jim, general secretary of National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), said there was a political conspiracy to get rid of Zwelinzima Vavi.

“We are of the view that it has become very clear that there is a programme that Zweli’s head must be chopped,” said Jim. He said there were forces within the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP) and other sections of Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) that weren’t interested in matters of the working class and the poor.

Jim said these forces of capitalism wanted to ensure Cosatu embraced the neo-liberal National Development Plan (NDP) reducing Cosatu into a “labour desk of the bourgeoisie”.

Ideological battle between the ANC, Cosatu and Numsa

He said Vavi has become a target of the ANC because he wanted Cosatu to implement the Freedom Charter and has spoken out against the implementation of the NDP.“There is double speak [within the ruling party]. Speaking left but walking right. Vavi has consistently put forward the issues of the working class and the poor,” he said.

Cosatu’s credibility questioned

Jim said Numsa was worried about the credibility of Cosatu. “We are very worried about the leadership of the federation.[pullquote] there is a programme that Zweli’s head must be chopped[/pullquote] We have lost confidence in comrade Sidumo Dlamini,” he said. He added that Numsa members were “up in arms” about Vavi’s suspension. He told the press they are certain state apparatus and state institutions were centrally involved and used to get rid of proponents of radical thought.

Allegations of political conspiracy

Jim refused to provide evidence of a conspiracy but said everything would unfold in due time. “I am refusing to speak on this thing. I know what has not being reported. When I send an sms, it has been intersected. We thought it was a small thing, we know now it is not a small thing,” he said.

Numsa has rejected the decision of the central executive committee (CEC) to place Vavi on special leave pending investigation and is consulting with their lawyers to over-turn the decision.


Related articles

Wits Vuvuzela. Vavi: It’s a conspiracy, August 16, 2013



Vavi: It’s a conspiracy

I'VE GOT YOUR NUMBER: Zwelinzima Vavi revealed evidence of a political conspiracy. Photo: Thuletho Zwane

I’VE GOT YOUR NUMBER: Zwelinzima Vavi revealed evidence of a political conspiracy.                                                                            Photo: Thuletho Zwane

The atmosphere outside Braamfontein’s Parktownian Hotel was fraught with tension and expectation, as supporters of beleaguered Cosatu secretary-general danced and chanted slogans of support for Zwelinzima Vavi (@zwelinzima1) asking why he was being targeted.

“uyenzeni u vavi?, we Sdumo awu phendule,” asked the crowd as they waited for him to address his first press conference since his suspension.  Sdumo Dlamini is the president of Cosatu.

Inside, Vavi, sporting a red National Union of Metalworkers of SA (NUMSA) tee shirt ,  provided the answer when he handed out two sets of documents that he said revealed a plot to turn the labour union “into a labour desk of the governing party”.

Fake intel report reveals conspiracy

One document was a letter from his lawyers challenging the legitimacy of the committee that suspended him. The other was an annexure to the letter, and reproduced an “intelligence document” that Vavi said revealed a plot by those “waiting in the long queues of the corruption trough” to blacken his name and the names of those who were fighting for the working classes.

“One of the intentions of the so-called intelligence report is clear: to destroy Cosatu,” Vavi said.

Vavi claimed the report was being distributed by those whose aim was to divide Cosatu, as well as “discredit and destroy a number of other prominent South Africans such as Tokoyo Sexwale, Judge Dikgang Moseneke, Cyril Ramaphosa, Irvin Jim etc.” “It aims to create paranoia to achieve its aim of annihilating its opponents.”

Doctored conversations

The document contains transcripts of meetings and telephone conversations, with Vavi discussing amongst other things plans to join Julius Malema’s party the Economic Freedom Fighters.

Vavi said the document was a complete fabrication doctored by “rouge” intelligence agents under the influence of factions in tripartite alliance.

At a number of stages during the press conference Vavi took deep breaths and the weight of the allegations against seemed to tell. He said nowhere else would  having a consensual relationship with a co-worker, demand the dismal that his detractors were gunning for.

“If Jesus was to return… [he] would be surprised at some of the people throwing stones.”

Vavi said he had apologised for his mistake, and that the incident was being used to remove him as general-secretary via trail by media. “I face no criminal allegations as I stand before you now,” Vavi said in response to a question of whether it would not be best for him to just step down.

Vavi sets to challenge legality of suspension

Vavi said he had instructed his lawyers to challenge his suspension, citing amongst other things that Dlamaini and other members of committee that suspended him had prejudiced themselves by circulating the “intelligence report” and publicly declaring him guilty.

Vavi said Dlamini denied circulating the report. Earlier on in a Numsa press conference the  federation’s secretary general Irvin Jim  said they had no confidence in Dlamini as a leader.

Strike action: Noise or power

The wave of recent strike action in the country has stretched over weeks and is accompanied by violence.

This year, strike action by workers began as early as mid-February when the South African Road Freight Workers downed tools in protest to get employers to meet the demands of their workers.

In July, members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) downed tools demanding a 13% wage increase and the banning of labour brokers.

They were soon followed by the members of the Chemical Energy Paper Printing Wood and Allied Workers Union (Ceppwawu), whose strike action disrupted fuel delivery to petrol stations leaving most Joburgers scrambling to fill their tanks.

This week, members of the National Union for Mineworkers (NUM) are on strike over wage increment disputes.

Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu) spokesperson, Patrick Craven says, “Strikes take place for very specific reasons and it’s coincidental that so many [negotiations] have reached that stage at the moment.”

“The strike action reflects the growing sense of frustration of people who feel marginalised, in what is now officially recognised as the most unequal society in the world.

“The people are getting impatient and want a reasonable share of the country’s wealth,” says Craven.

Professor Anthony Butler, head of political studies at Wits University, says, “The hike in strike action is based on people’s low standards of living and the fact that it’s hard to live on the wages that most Cosatu members earn, but it’s also partly political.

“The political aspect of the strikes can’t be ignored.”

Butler says the ANC now has more conflict between the different economic classes that exist within it and Cosatu now plays a part in that conflict. This has resulted in Cosatu using its industrial muscle to play the political game.

In the run-up to important conferences such as next year’s elective conference of the ANC in December, Butler expects we are likely to see a very high level of  strike action that is politically motivated.

“When people use industrial strike action and violence as a way of communicating their political demands, it’s usually because they are excluded and weak and not because they are strong.

“We shouldn’t confuse noise, violence and conflict with power,” says Butler.