The labour strike had the Durban University of Technology turned violent on Wednesday morning, when the institution's security guards allegedly shot at striking workers with rubber bullets.
The strike which has entered its second week has reached a deadlock with management offering 6.25% increment and no bonus, while unions want at least 8.25%.
Union members, who spoke to The Mercury, said security guards opened fire on them when they were leaving Cane Growers Hall, after being briefed by union leaders on the day’s plan and that students were also reportedly shot.
The striking workers said that they had not provoked the guards.
Spokesperson for the Crisis Committee, Milton Estrice, appointed to facilitate negotiations between the two parties said that the Deputy Minister of Education’ visit had forced the university to reopen negotiation talks.
“We came in good faith to meet with management but we were hit with a two fold blow, our members' peaceful protest has been mired but today’s shootings despite the workers not threatening or harming anyone, and the workers mandate was not met, management came with an insulting offer to the table,” explained Estrice.
According to Estrice, sixteen staff members were reported to have been injured and two students were also hurt.
Estrice said strike action would continue.
DUT spokeswoman Noxolo Memela said according to the feedback received from the security team, upon exiting the hall, the staff participating in the strike became threatening towards the security guards.
This then evolved into chaos which prompted the guards to respond in order to clear all violent protesters from that vicinity.
“As a result, paintball shots were fired at the strikers and this caused injury to some of the staff who were striking, the guards who were at the scene and also, to some of the students who were at the registration venue and got caught up in the protest.”
She said the salary negotiation process between the parties had resumed. Management was hopeful that an agreement would be reached between the unions and the university.