Bonile Khanyi and Thabo Mohlala
The Deputy Minister for Higher Education, Buti Manamela, took to Twitter on Tuesday to announce there had been a breakthrough in the Durban University of Technology (DUT) strike.
“DUT and the Unions agree to go back to negotiations after a five-hour meeting. The parties will resume talks tomorrow morning. Classes will resume by the end of the week and registration will be finalised ASAP,” said Manamela.
The deputy minister was asked to intervene after the university implemented a lockout last Friday. His involvement came after calls were made from the public that DHET should mediate to end the protracted strike which is entering its 7th week.
The spokesperson for the National Health, Education and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu), Khaya Xaba, said they welcomed the interaction between the unions, DUT management and DHET. He said they were optimistic that the involvement of the deputy minister would assist in finding a solution.
Manamela said his biggest worry was that, even though there was a strike, there were no negotiations at all. He said the parties were not talking to each other.
There are three unions with active members at DUT with Nehawu commanding strong support among the striking workers. The other two unions are the Tertiary Education National Union of South Africa (Tenusa) and the National Tertiary Education Union.
“We wanted 8.25% salary hike and R9 000 once-off bonus payment to our members and employer offered 6.25% which we refused.”
“They employer pleads poverty and we don’t believe they cannot afford to meet our demand. We tried to engage them further but to no avail. Two mediation talks under the CCMA collapsed. But we hope that given the impact the strike is having on the academic programme, we should be able to sign an agreement tomorrow,” said Xaba at the time.
The head of Universities South Africa Professor Ahmed Bawa said their main concern was that the whole academic year would be lost if the matter was not successfully addressed.
Nehawu’s General Secretary Zola Saphetha announced their commitment to resume talks with management in a bid to stop the seven-week strike that has resulted in the suspension of DUT’s academic programmes.
“An immediate suspension of the strike is needed as a matter of urgency so that tuition can begin as soon as possible. As Nehawu, we are committed to engaging all concerned stakeholders in ending the strike and we welcome the commitment by the University Council to return to the negotiating table,” said Saphetla.
However, even with the protracted strike, the university’s management said it was able to register 22 980 students for the 2018 academic year.
Manamela wrote on Twitter, “I can happily say that tomorrow (Wednesday) negotiations will be resuming and the unions will be reporting back to their members.”