Rhodes to act against protesting workers

Rhodes University has warned the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) that it will take disciplinary action against its protesting members if they do not return to work immediately.

About 300 Nehawu members overturned bins and gathered later on the rubbish-strewn steps of the university administration building in a vocal protest against the university’s revised 6.5% salary increase offer.

Rhodes said it had received no notice of the protest, go-slow or stayaway action and regarded it as unlawful and unprocedural.

Some university residences and dining halls were left filthy this week, with kitchen and other staff reportedly having been on a go-slow.

While the National Tertiary Education Union (Nteu) formally accepted the revised salary offer, Nehawu rejected it outright.

Earlier this week the university raised its 5% offer to 6.5%.

Among other demands, Nehawu wants an across-the-board increase of 7.5%, an increase in housing and danger allowances and 100% bursaries for family members. It also wants the university’s name changed.

But Rhodes says it is carrying a multimillion-rand student debt and simply does not have the funds to meet such demands.

Nteu’s Grant Abbott confirmed that the union had accepted the revised offer.

Rhodes said it was doing all it could to alleviate the adverse effect of the go-slow, particularly in residences and dining halls.

Students reportedly received vouchers to buy food.

Rhodes said it was extremely concerned about the illegal protest action as it was against the requirements of a signed agreement between the university and organised labour.

It said it had not received the required 48 hours’ notice that industrial action would take place.

The university warned staff to return to work immediately or face disciplinary action.

Addressing academic and administrative leadership yesterday, vice-chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela expressed concern about the deteriorating state of hygiene at some residences.

The university management and both unions were still in negotiations yesterday afternoon.

Nehawu’s Zakade Vena would not comment at this stage.

Adrienne Carlisle

Leave a Reply