DURBAN - Durban University of Technology (DUT) has issued a stern warning to its employees who wish to take part in tomorrow’s picketing against retrenchments which has been organised by various unions.
This comes after unions – the Federation of Unions of SA, National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union and National Tertiary Education Union – organised a picket to be held outside the university’s Steve Biko Campus on Friday.
The unions are expected to submit their memorandum of demands to management, which includes the reconsideration of the retrenchment of 31 lecturers. This week, The Mercury reported that the institution retrenched these lecturers as they had failed to obtain a Master’s degree in their respective fields more than a decade after being told to do so.
In a communiqué issued last month, the institution said the requirement of a Master’s degree dated back to 2008, when the university gave affected lecturers up to 2012 to register for and earn their Master’s degrees.
This morning, the union issued an invitation to their members to take part in the picket.
The Mercury has seen a letter which was sent to all staff at the institution, warning them against participating in the picketing.
In the letter, signed by Dr VL Mthethwa, senior director in human resources at DUT, the institution said the management had been advised of the intention by unions to institute labour action on Friday.
Mthethwa said employees were formally advised that such action is unprotected and against the provisions of the Labour Relations Act, Section 69, in terms of which agreement must be reached with the employer.
“Any intended industrial action can only be protected if (i) a certificate is obtained at the CCMA, (ii) a 48-hour notice is provided to the employer, (iii) picketing rules have been approved by the employer,” reads the letter.
Mthethwa said the unions had not adhered to the legislative requirements. Therefore, he said employees were advised that should they participate in such activities, this would be unprotected, and the employer would have every right to take the necessary consequence management for such actions.
He said management reserved the right to take disciplinary action against all employees identified as engaging in unlawful conduct and seek an interdict to stop this unlawful conduct.
Furthermore, they could claim damages from employee members for losses suffered by the university as a result of this unlawful conduct.
“The university’s rights remain reserved. You are further advised that the university remains concerned about the risks you are placing yourselves in should you choose to participate in this action, particularly in relation to the current circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic and the associated protocols,” said Mthethwa.
According to the university, 31 of the 57 lecturers were retrenched from the end of the last month. Of the remaining lecturers, 17 were scheduled to complete their qualifications by December 31 and were spared retrenchment, contingent upon completion; six lecturers were eligible for early retirement; and one had just completed the Master’s and was allowed to remain employed.
Two lecturers in the Faculty of Health Sciences were “ring-fenced” because of their scarce skills and as a result, they were spared on the condition that they completed their Master’s degrees by 2024.