Students turned away by Unisa staff as wage deadlock continues

2018-01-18 15:11
Protesting Nehawu-affiliated Unisa workers shutdown Langalibalele Street on Wednesday as the deadlock over wage talks continues.

Protesting Nehawu-affiliated Unisa workers shutdown Langalibalele Street on Wednesday as the deadlock over wage talks continues. (Sabelo Nsele)

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Prospective and returning Unisa students were turned away on Wednesday as registration was halted at Pietermaritzburg and Durban campuses by protesting workers.

Nehawu-affiliated workers shut down campuses on Wednesday as a deadlock over wage talks continued.

Students joined the workers on the Pietermaritzburg campus and the protesters blocked one of the city’s busiest roads, Langalibalele Street. This gave rise to traffic disruptions as traffic officers battled to redirect motorists.

The workers and students later moved from the road to allow traffic to flow but continued to block all entrances to the campus.

Nehawu branch chairperson Mxolisi Mkhize said workers had initially demanded a 12% increase when wage talks started last year.

“The country’s economy has been downgraded and living expenses have gone up.

“Our fallback is eight percent [but] the employer is only offering six percent. If we take six percent, it will not make any difference to our salaries.

“The negotiations started last year and we had hoped that an agreement would have been reached by December so that we have a smooth registration. But that did not happen and we are here today,” he said.

Mkhize said the union’s members would allow registration to continue as soon as university management agreed to workers’ demands.

“We allowed those who were writing exams to enter but registration did not take place,” he said.

Student representatives demanded that the university extend the registration period.

SRC deputy secretary Khetha Mthethwa said the students also had their own grievances, which was why they joined Wednesday’s protest.

“Some of us are coming from far, and we have to return back home having not been able to register. We have been standing in the sun since this morning and we have decided to join the strike so that management can resolve this speedily.

“We are also demanding that Unisa students be given accommodation allowances. Those that qualify for free education must be allowed to register,” he said.

Unisa spokesperson Martin Ramotshela said negotiations between university management and Nehawu leaders were ongoing and it was hoped that an agreement would be reached soon.

Ramotshela said registration had only continued online through the university’s website.

“The university is cognisant that the strike has disrupted the registration and application process.

“ We will soon communicate a decision regarding the days that have been lost,” he said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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