Pretoria - Striking workers at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University in Pretoria have vowed not to return to work until their employer has met all their wage increase demands.
Their protest started last Thursday and continued yesterday, despite the university’s interdict application expected to be heard at the Labour Court today.
Vusi Mahlangu, national organiser of the Academic and Professional Staff Association, said both parties had not reached a common ground, and the union was concerned that the university’s imminent court interdict would be hostile to workers.
“We haven’t reached a common ground with the university. Instead, the university is going to an extent of antagonising workers by making an application to interdict workers.
“It is clear they are antagonising them instead of making an attempt to resolve the impasse,” he said.
Workers are demanding a 7% wage increase, R3 000 once-off payment to each worker, and permission for five days of annual leave to be cashed out.
Mahlangu said: “The employer is offering 5.7%, two days of leave to be cashed out and R1 000 once-off payment.”
The wage negotiations deadlocked after going on for three months.
“We took the matter to the CCMA for possible mediation, but we deadlocked even at the CCMA. We were granted a certificate to go on strike,” Mahlangu said.
He accused university management of negotiating in bad faith and of being unfair to workers.
“When we received a notice that they are actually going to court tomorrow, it was clear to us they are no longer willing to speak in good faith and they are on a fighting mode. And that left us with no other option but to engage in a form of strike action,” he said.
Mahlangu said it was not true that the university didn’t have money, because whenever there was a protest, it was able to afford the hiring of private security despite crying poverty.
“Whenever there is a protest like this, they bring in private security to attack protesters. We saw it with the students’ strike earlier on, and we saw it with the workers’ strike. Yet they say that they don’t have money to afford a 7% wage increase,” he said.
He also claimed that the university had hired a cleaning company because workers had gone on strike “yet, they cry that they don’t have money”.
“It is a clear indication that there are a lot of malicious lies in some of the reasons for refusal to give workers what they demand,” he said.
University spokesperson Dr Lusani Netshitomboni said the interdict application would be heard today at the Labour Court.
He said academic activities continued unhindered, with protesters outside of the university gate and not obstructing an entrance.
He said the university made an assessment of the strike’s impact on some of the activities and came up with alternative arrangements.
For example, he said, the strike impacted negatively on the cleaning services at the students’ residences and the university in general.
“This is something that needed to be attended to. Hence, we had to make alternative arrangements to make sure that services are provided.
“It is not about the fact that we don’t have money to pay staff and therefore, why hire other people. Obviously, the provision is made for services of this nature in case of emergencies, and there is nothing untoward about it,” Netshitomboni said.