Workers affiliated with the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), at Fort Hare University in the Eastern Cape, are seeking legal advice to challenge a court interdict preventing them from protesting near the institution’s premises.
They have been on strike for almost a month, demanding a 10% salary increase, while the employer is offering 7.5%.
Last week, the university was granted an interim order restricting workers from being within 100 metres of the institution, following allegations of damage to property and intimidation.
The union has revised their salary increase and wage demand from 12 to 10%. They are calling on management to come to the negotiation table so that circumstances at the historical institution can return to normal.
Workers are denying any involvement in damaging the institution’s property.
“And the question we are asking is if there is any property that is damaged show us where it is. Which window have we broken? Yes I agree members sing, dance and burn tyres. But to say we have damaged property without giving evidence to show or argue your case it is very much improper,” says Nehawu shop steward, Prince Dabula .
The strike saw the postponement of mid-year examinations. Students such as Khanyisa Mulusa say they have been negatively affected.
“It disturbed me in terms of timing because we have to do everything in the second semester and this semester is so small so everything has to be squeezed in. The practical vacation has to be in this and the exams also and other students are going to have to write supplementary exams.”
The other workers’ union, the National Tertiary Education Union, has accepted the 7.5% wage increase offer and its members have returned to work.
University spokesperson, Kgotso Moabi, says they hope to finalise outstanding issues with Nehawu.
“Staff came to campuses yesterday (Monday). We are still in negotiations with Nehawu hoping to conclude this matter as soon as possible. Students are coming back to campus. We are expecting this week to have one or two exams but it is a study week. But next week we are going to commence with mid-year exams.”
Nehawu’s provincial leadership is currently in talks with the Fort Hare management, in an attempt to find a lasting solution.