SACP General Secretary Blade Nzimande. File photo: Dumisani Sibeko

Johannesburg - Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has welcomed unions' decision to end a six-week long strike at Walter Sisulu University.

“We commend university management and the unions for demonstrating leadership by ensuring that the decisions made take into consideration the long-term viability of the university and do not threaten the significant gains made over the past two years,” Nzimande said in a statement on Friday.

Workers were expected to return on Monday, when classes would resume.

Workers affiliated to the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) embarked on a protest on July 23 demanding a 10 percent increase.

Nehawu said the agreement reached would result in workers receiving a five percent annual increase backdated to January 1.

An audit firm would also be appointed to audit the process of migration to new salary scales. Any errors found with the initial process would be dealt with retrospectively.

“It was also agreed that a once-off opportunity to migrate to a preferred retirement fund will be accorded to members of staff and that presentations will be done to enable staff to make an informed choice,” Nehawu said.

Higher education director general Gwebs Qonde recently said the university could afford to pay staff, including lecturers, only 4.25 percent more.

He said the university was technically and commercially bankrupt, as was found by an administrator, who was appointed in June 2011 .

Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane was appointed by President Jacob Zuma to investigate the problems leading to the indefinite closure of the institution last Wednesday.

The closure was announced after volatility associated with the strike.

WSU spokeswoman Angela Church confirmed that the strike was over and that discussions on the implementations of proposals were underway. - Sapa