DURBAN - THE Durban University of Technology has retrenched 31 lecturers who have 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.
In the internal letter, DUT’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Thandwa Zizwe Mthembu said in 2008 that the university gave affected lecturers up to 2012 to register for and earn their Master’s degrees.
Mthembu said in the letter that earlier this year, the institution approached the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) in pursuance of a well-legislated consultation process regarding the issue.
“At the start of this CCMA-facilitated process, the university provided a list of 57 lecturers who faced retrenchment on the basis of their failure to meet the requirement, 14 years on.
“I must hasten to declare that, at this juncture, about 90 lecturers had heeded the call over these years and completed their Master’s.”
According to the communiqué, after the mandatory 60-day period of consultation, 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 from 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 condition that they completed their Master’s degrees by 2024.
The university told The Mercury that out of about 600 academics, the retrenched lecturers constituted 5%.
It was further stated that arrangements for interim replacements have been made.
Approached for comment, some of the retrenched lecturers said that they did not want to speak to the media yet as the issue was still being challenged by the unions.
The Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) called on the Higher Education Minister, Blade Nzimande, to intervene and to nullify the “irregular” retrenchments.
Fedusa’s general secretary Riefdah Ajam said management had refused to consider alternatives that were jointly proposed by organised labour at the institution.
Ajam said that the retrenchments were going to have a massive knock-on effect as there would be an inadequate number of lecturers.
“We are calling for an immediate suspension of these processes and that retrenchment that has taken place be nullified,” Ajam said.
She said that the unions would be submitting a memorandum with the list of demands to the university’s council on Friday.
Higher Education Ministry spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi said he could not comment at this stage, stating that the issue was between the university’s executives and council.