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Students, unions rally behind Nehawu’s bid to have fired Unisa employees reinstated

Entrances leading up to the Unisa main campus in Muckleneuk were cordoned off with trees and vehicles as protesting employees made their stance clear. Picture: Goitsemang Tlhabye

Entrances leading up to the Unisa main campus in Muckleneuk were cordoned off with trees and vehicles as protesting employees made their stance clear. Picture: Goitsemang Tlhabye

Published May 9, 2022

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Pretoria - Students and other stakeholder unions have rallied behind the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union's (Nehawu) bid to ensure the reinstatement of the five Unisa employees who were fired with immediate effect by the institution last week.

Entrances leading up to the Unisa main campus in Muckleneuk Pretoria were once again cordoned off with trees and vehicles as protesting Unisa employees made their stance clear regarding the university's decision to terminate the employment contracts of five office bearers aligned to the union.

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Sizwe Sixaba, the branch secretary of the South African Students' Congress (Sasco) at Unisa, said since the strike began his inbox had been inundated by student issues that had been lagging behind due to the workers' protest which has lasted for weeks now.

"We need the workers for things to get going and it must be clear that these are our mothers and fathers so we are in solidarity with them. As students, we know first-hand the difficulty being experienced by most of us at the institution as we can't even get the vice-chancellor to respond to any student issues raised with her from the beginning of the year."

Thomas Hlongwane, cluster chairperson of the Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu) in Tshwane, said their union condemned the style of management being implemented by the university and vice-chancellor in response to workers simply raising their issues with them.

Hlongwane said they supported and understood the fight the workers had embarked on regarding salary increases and working conditions, however, they were concerned with how the university was handling the matter.

"This style (of management) was used during the apartheid era and it cannot happen again so we will support the workers every day until they go back to their workplaces. The labour relations act is in place to govern the employer and employee relations so why run to court?"

"This whole issue could have been resolved amicably so, rather than going to court to interdict workers when they're simply raising their frustrations or demanding salary increases."

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Lwazi Nkolonzi, the Nehawu national spokesperson, said the union was clear on its stance that the university management alongside the Vice-Chancellor Professor Puleng LenkaBula had not followed the legal prescripts in terms of the Labour Relations Act on the procedures to be followed when instituting disciplinary processes against a shop-steward.

Nkolonzi said they were shocked and angered by the actions of the university and as a result following the meeting with their members today, had consulted with their lawyers and convened the members for broader action they planned to embark on.

"We want to make it clear that as Nehawu we will not tolerate any victimisation of our members or any intimidation, neither will we accept any union-bashing attempts by the university."

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"We will take up the fight against such acts as our congress mandated us to close ranks and defend our base and this is what we will do. We are going to fight for these shop-stewards whose employment contracts have been terminated unprocedurally by the VC and the management."

Nkolonzi said the party and its members would not back down on this issue as he rubbished claims by the university that advances were made to engage the union but to no avail.

If anything he said the union had a letter from LenkaBula requesting an audience with the leaders of the union which was acceded to on April 24, with the meeting being attended by five national office bearers.

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"The members met with the management of Unisa and the task team however the VC was out of the country, and as a result, the team told us they would not be in a position to take any decision as that responsibility lay solely with LenkaBula."

"So for the university to say that we have not been forthcoming is being economical with the truth, the union has responded and we've even communicated with them this morning but we are just told that the VC is simply not feeling well."

Pretoria News

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