NEHAWU and NTEU demand better wage increase

Earlier today members of both the National Health Education & Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) and National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) gathered to hand over their respective memorandums to the management of the University Currently Known as Rhodes (UCKAR). The memorandums come following upset among workers as to the recent wage increase sitting at a mere 5% as suggested by management during negotiations. Such an increase was considered by the workers to be inadequate, particularly in comparison to other universities such as Walter Sisulu University and CPUT that have both seen a wage increase of 7% this year. The suggestion of 5% comes as a shock as from 2013 the wage increase at UCKAR has annually sat at 6%, only to fall down to 5% in 2017 – considered by the crowd today as a wage cut, rather than increase.

On Thursday and Friday last week both unions engaged in a picket before the UCKAR admin building to show their rejection of the suggested 5% wage increase, as well as to bring attention to the University having not made any financial plan for the future available to the workers. NEHAWU and NTEU have been engaged in a ‘go-slow’ with management since last week, and are said to be continuing throughout this week.

Notable demands that were put forward by NEHAWU today included a wage increase of no less than 7%, an abolishment of grade 1, 2 and 3 worker classifications, an increase in the housing allowance from R1000 to R1500 per month, and the removal of Dr Iain L’Ange from management. NEHAWU concluded their demands by stating that they would give management seven days to respond to their memorandum.

Following the demands from NEHAWU, a NTEU representative was given time to address their demands to the crowd. The representative expressed his disappointment with UCKAR management, and made it clear that whilst the University currently has some of the best qualified workers in the country, this would not continue should the wage increases continue to remain so low. NTEU demanded a 7.5% increase, as well as a clear career path to be planned for each worker so as to not have older workers stuck in the same positions for the entirety of their careers. Other demands were that of a reduction in working hours per week, a 50% medical subsidy when an employee retires, and a two-year moratorium on all retrenchments of workers.

The gathering was concluded following an address from Dr Clayton who stated that the University would engage as soon as possible, and that management intended on resuming formal negotiations with workers on the matter. Workers were told by the unions to return home following the gathering, but would resume work tomorrow. Students of SASCO pledged their support for the workers’ plea, and the crowd dispersed.

A student body meeting is to be held this evening at 18:00 in the General Lecture Theatre to allow students to engage with the situation at hand.

Words by Leila Kidson

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The NTEU memorandum can be found here. The NEHAWU memorandum will be uploaded as soon as possible.

The gathering was covered by our team on Twitter; below are some of the tweets from the day: