NMMU workers’ strike looms after pay increase offer rejected

Workers at NMMU have threatened to go on strike soon if the university does not give in to their demand of a 10.4% wage increase.

Members of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) said a strike was looming as NMMU’s wage increase offer was still 4% shy of what they were demanding.

Nehawu’s demand consists of a non-negotiable 6.4% salary increase, as well as a further 4% increase for “living enhancements”.

However, the university said the last two years had put major strain on tertiary institutions, and it could only afford a total increase of 6.4%.

Nehawu spokesman Khaya Xaba said the union believed a strike would happen if negotiations did not go their way.

“Management made a pathetic offer that was roundly rejected by Nehawu and the other unions.

“Yet the university continues to see fit to exploit workers and give them salaries that subject them to poverty,” Xaba said.

“Workers refused the offer by management. It is also rejected because management is only interested in increasing its financial reserves rather than improving and investing in its human assets.”

The union also called for the insourcing of services such as cleaners, to do away with outside contractors whom they believe further exploit poor workers.

“The university continues to spend money on legal fees to fight the union yet when they have to pay workers what is due to them they plead poverty,” he said.

In a statement, NMMU said the availability of funds had been a major challenge as student numbers had increased over the years but government grants had dwindled.

“The student protests of 2015 and 2016 foregrounded the funding challenge and other issues, including the exploitative nature of outsourcing services, bringing along a sense of urgency to finding lasting solutions,” the statement read.

“NMMU is currently burdened with a R69-million operational budget deficit before investment income and while plans are in place to drum up third-stream income, the university must focus now and into the future on the challenging issues of affordability and sustainability.

“It would be irresponsible and short-sighted not to do so.”

NMMU believes Nehawu has declared a negotiation deadlock prematurely, preventing it from reaching a reasonable solution that would benefit the workforce without jeopardising the university’s financial sustainability.

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