University of Pretoria striking workers call off 3-week long protest

University of Pretoria striking workers call off 3-week long protest. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

University of Pretoria striking workers call off 3-week long protest. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 12, 2024


After almost a month of protest action by employees at the University of Pretoria (UP), an agreement has finally been reached regarding the 2024 salary negotiations.

Workers affiliated to the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) at UP have been on strike since February 15, demanding a 7% wage hike, however, the university only offered a 4% wage increase as a result of financial constraints.

Among their reasons for being unable to offer workers a decent increase for the current year, the university cited a burgeoning student debt, inability to increase fees as a result of restrictions placed by the Department of Higher Education and Training, and costs related to keeping the university running amid the persistent load shedding.

This offer was vehemently rejected by workers who insisted that they would not accept the 4% and not return to work, no matter how long it took.

Nehawu leaders reported last week that they were hoping for a resolution to the long-standing impasse as a meeting was scheduled for the weekend with the university management and commissioners from the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

Their hopes were not misplaced as a way forward has finally been mapped out.

University spokesperson, Rikus Delport, said following the constructive engagements between university management and organised labour, an agreement was reached between the university and joint labour representation comprising Nehawu, UPWO, and Solidarity.

Delport said the agreement, reached through collaborative efforts, would see an across-the-board salary increase of 5.1% on basic salary, plus a once-off payment of R1 200 for the year 2024.

“While celebrating this positive outcome, the university underscores its unwavering commitment to financial sustainability amidst prevailing economic challenges and constraints faced by the sector and the institution. It is imperative to continue to avoid further strain on already limited resources.

“The university extends its heartfelt gratitude to all employees for their continued dedication to the university’s mission and their invaluable contributions to its success.”

Tlou Matuba, UP Nehawu chairperson, said although the offer tabled was not satisfactory, they had to consider the workers and their valid concerns of the “no work, no pay” principle.

Matuba said in addition to the slight increase in the offer, other issues raised by workers had been referred to the bargaining council for resolution hence the decision to call off the strike.

“We called off the strike as other matters will be resolved by the bargaining council and we are confident they can assist us. 5.1% may not be the 7% workers were hoping for but it is a reasonable increase and something we can work on,” he said.

The Star