Durban - Durban University of Technology staff on strike now for six weeks gathered at Steve Biko Campus earlier on Friday and said they would not return to work until their demands were met.
Staff made up of three unions gathered inside the institution after 11am, the time given to them to be off the premises following the lock our notice issued by the institution yesterday.
Yesterday during a press briefing Vice Chancellor Professor Thandwa Mthembu urged unions to suspend the strike which reached deadlock last week.
Unions are demanding an 8% salary increase as well as a R350 increase in a housing allowance while management is offering a 6.5% increase in salary and 6.5% on the housing allowance. The 6.5 housing allowance increase amounts to R66.
This morning there was a heavy police presence and a number of MI7 security guards outside Steve Biko Campus. There was also a police casspir on standby.
The Saturday Independent was shown a letter from DUT to staff regarding the lockout. Dated February 22, it stated that section 64 (1) of the labour relations act of 1995 provides that an employer (DUT in this case) has the recourse to lock out in response to a strike. According to the letter the purpose of the lock out is for an employer to compel striking employees to accept the employer’s offer with the practical implications being that the employer excludes striking employees from the workplace.
Addressing workers Michael Mbatha with Nehawu at DUT said if the university went ahead with the lock out it should also close the student residences. “Because why should students be here when there’s a lock out. It will be difficult for management to do the lock out because what does that mean for students on campus,” he said.
Staff, some of whom have had their salaries docked by the university, sang “The fridge is empty, debit orders went off and there was no money” during their gathering. Mbatha told staff they were a few steps away from what they want because there was no ways that the Vice Chancellor could replace the majority of staff at the institution.
“He can’t replace you, he said that himself. So if he can’t replace us that means he must come back to the table and meet our demand. We have been saying for the past six weeks come to the table, he’s been refusing to do so until we and the students put pressure on him."