Nehawu warns of intensified strike action after deadlock

Nehawu protest at UP. (Alex Mitchley, News24)
Nehawu protest at UP. (Alex Mitchley, News24)

Pretoria - The National Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) leadership on Tuesday warned that their strike action will intensify after negotiations with the University of Pretoria reached a deadlock.

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

Ntsako Nombelani, Nehawu's higher education national organiser, said negotiations resumed on Tuesday with Nehawu trying to meet the university midway with their demands.

The union said it changed its salary increase demands from 10% to 7.5% and a 100% 13th cheque to 50%.

They also asked that the union and its members employed at the university have full participation rights on the appointment of a medical aid broker with additional medical aid scheme options from which to choose.

Clash

Nombelani said while Nehawu had made compromises, the negotiations deadlocked as the university refused to change its position.

Nombelani said the union would be meeting with members to discuss a way forward and that security personnel would be joining the strike, which would be radicalised, on Wednesday.

University spokesperson Candice Jooste said talks had deadlocked again, 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.
 
"Nehawu members who have broken the law by damaging property and blocking the entrances will be held accountable."

The strike started last week and has been mostly peaceful.

But 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.

Interdict

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 last Friday.

The interdict conditions included that Nehawu members not picket on the campus, disrupt students or staff.

They were also not allowed to picket within 50m from any university entrance.

But 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.

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