Hundreds of Numsa members set for 'indefinite' strike at University of Johannesburg

Around 700 members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa plan to begin an indefinite strike at the University of Johannesburg on Friday.

Numsa said in a statement on Thursday that it has served the UJ management with a notice to strike.

According to the union, the strike relates to what it regards as a failure by the university to deal with certain issues. The union is not happy about different salaries being earned in the security department for what it says is the same work.

This is because of a grading system used, a system the union wants to have overhauled.

Numsa's national spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola told Fin24 that security staff who were previously outsourced are not being paid the same as those who have been previously insourced. The union says it decided to strike following what it labelled inadequate engagement from university management.

"We had different meetings and they treated our members with disdain. We have no option but to take this drastic course of action," said Hlubi-Majola.

She expects the strike will mostly affect support staff, security staff and cleaning staff.

The union is also not happy with what it calls a "harvesting" policy used by protection services management.

"The management claims that our members must work extra hours because they claim that workers owe the university their labour. They are forced to work extra hours without getting paid," the union says in the statement.

Hlubi-Majola says the union demands that all workers must be on the same medical aid, with the same benefits. Apparently, the security workers who were insourced in 2016 are not on the same medical aid plan as other staff. Furthermore, the university allegedly also makes no contribution to the medical aid of these previously outsourced workers, while it contributes to the medical aid of other staff.

"We are calling on the management of UJ to do the right thing and negotiate an agreement which will suit all parties. UJ cannot claim to 'serve humanity' when it fails to uphold and respect the rights of its own employees," states Numsa.

A spokesperson for the University of Johannesburg confirmed to Fin24 that it had received a strike notice from Numsa. It said it respected the right of union members to demonstrate peacefully, provided academic and administrative activities were not disrupted and student or staff safety was not jeopardised. 

It added that the union's demands had "far-reaching implications which will place the current and future sustainability model of the University at significant risk".

The "no work, no pay" principle would apply to striking members, it said.

"UJ has contingency plans in place and will continue with its normal operations,"  said the spokesperson.

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