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Monday, June 21, 2021

Ongoing labour disputes at DUT and Sol Plaatjie delays academic year

Thabo Mohlala

Mangement at Durban University of Technology (DUT) and Sol Plaatjie University have not settled a  labour dispute between them and workers belonging to three unions, throwing the start of the academic year at both institutions into disarray.

While most campuses were described as calm on the first day of lectures, things remained tense at the two institutions as parties traded counter-accusations on who was to blame for the protracted strike action. The strike at DUT entered its 17th day on Tuesday.

The unions involved in the labour dispute are National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), the Tertiary Education National Union of South Africa (Tenusa) and the National Tertiary Education Union (Ntewu).

Speaking earlier this morning about the DUT situation, Nehawu’s national spokesperson, Khaya Xaba said they had a mediation meeting with the employer yesterday. After the meeting, he said, DUT negotiators requested to go back to get a mandate from the council.

“Our understanding is that they would meet this morning and then revert back to us in the afternoon to report on the council’s response. We hope they would come with an offer to settle the strike,” said Xaba.

He said they bent over backward to accommodate the employer [DUT].

“Our original position was 12%, we then revised it down to 10% and we are now on 8.25%, which is our final offer. Their initial offer was 4% and they increased this 6.25%, which still falls far short of our final and revised demand,” said Xaba.

He said the unions were willing to settle so things could get back to normal as soon as possible particularly because students still had to register. He accused DUT management of pleading poverty while they knew they can afford to meet the workers’ demand for salary increases.

“We believe the university has the money to meet our demands considering that every year the university admit new cohort of students who pay for both registration and accommodation,” said Xaba.

He said at Sol Plaatijie the parties were also still far from one another. Workers are demanding 11% increases plus 100% bonuses and there is the issue around hiring new staff.  Inside Education attempted to speak to DUT’s senior director of corporate affairs, Alan Khan to no avail.

In his earlier statements, Khan put the blame on the union for not resolving the situation. He told the media last week that “despite the deadlock, DUT remains committed to continuously engaging with our labour representatives, in order to reach an amicable solution to the staff strike”.

It is not known if the meeting this afternoon would finally resolve the impasse and pave way for lecturers at DUT.


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