Nehawu vows to intensify strike action at UP

2017-05-25 21:01
A Nehawu protester at UP. (Alex Mitchley, News24)

A Nehawu protester at UP. (Alex Mitchley, News24)

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Pretoria - Members of the National Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) has vowed that their strike action at the University of Pretoria (UP) would intensify on Friday and that members will be “going all out”.

“It’s all or nothing,” said Ntsako Nombelani, Nehawu's national organiser for higher education, saying that the University had hardened the hearts of the workers with their latest action.

According to Nombelani, the University had on Thursday brought an offer of a 7.5% salary increase and a once off sum of R3000. As part of the offer, the union would also be able to participate in the appointment of a medical aid broker. But this offer was apparently later withdrawn by the university.

Nombelani said the reason the offer was withdrawn was because they would not continue negotiating the possibility of a 13th cheque if the union didn’t take the offer.

“They are forcing the offer on us,” said Nombelani.

“We rejected and are going to picket lines in a radical manner tomorrow.”

UP spokesperson Candice Jooste said the negotiations were still ongoing and that no final agreement had been reached yet.

On Wednesday, a deadlock was broken when the Nehawu leadership met with UP vice-chancellor Professor Cheryl de la Rey.

Nombelani on Wednesday addressed workers who had been singing and dancing intermittently at the engineering gate while the meeting was underway.

Nombelani said the university was now looking at the numbers - the affordability of a 7.5% salary increase and the affordability of a 13th cheque.

He said this was not looked at before the meeting.

Nombelani said the university agreed to give the union full participatory rights in relation to the appointment of a medical aid broker, as well as allowing Nehawu to benchmark and compare available medical schemes which will benefit their members.

On Tuesday, Nehawu leadership and UP management reached a deadlock in negotiations.

This is not the first time that negotiations between the union and the university have deadlocked since the strike started about a week ago.

Nehawu said while it had relaxed its stance, the university would not be uprooted on their offer and refused to change their position.

Jooste said at the time that talks had deadlocked, despite its willingness to negotiate in good faith.

"The university remains convinced that its offer of a 7% general salary increase, as well as an additional R3 000 gratuity payment, is reasonable and fair given the current economic conditions, especially as employees are already earning above the industry average," said Jooste.

She added that the no-work, no-pay principle is currently in effect.

Week-long strike

The strike started last week and there was a brief clash between a group of Nehawu members and police on Friday afternoon after members split into two groups.

While the one group demonstrated peacefully, other members tried to gain entry onto the university's campus where they were met by police who retaliated with teargas and stun grenades.

Some Nehawu members, however, managed to get through the police cordon, while others retreated and threw rocks and bricks at the police.

Three Nehawu members were arrested.

The clash between demonstrators and police was short-lived as the regional leadership quelled the situation.

Nehawu members threatened to close down the university on its open day last Saturday. This was prevented by a court interdict obtained by the university.

The interdict conditions included that Nehawu members not picket on the campus and disrupt students or staff. They were also not allowed to picket within 50m from any university entrance.

This was relaxed on Monday afternoon as a show of good faith by both parties going forward into negotiations.

It is understood that the university allowed Nehawu members to demonstrate at the engineering gate, on the one side of the pavement.

"The university respects workers' right to protest, and appeals to them to do so within the confines of the law and in accordance with the interdict obtained from the High Court, by the university," said Jooste.

Read more on:    university of pretoria  |  pretoria  |  university protests

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