Classes are expected to resume at Walter Sisulu University (WSU), in the Eastern Cape today.
This comes as the protracted industrial action which led to the loss of 32 academic days and affected 24 613 students has come to an end.
On Friday, after an intervention by the Director General of the Higher Education and Training, Gwebikundla Qonde, it was agreed that Nehawu and the National Tertiary Education Union would end the labour impasse that was declared on July 23.
The unions have accepted an increase of 5% backdated to 1 January 2013 and the principle of no-work-no-pay will be applied.
The university staff had demanded an 8% – 10% salary increase. However, the department said the university was technically and commercially bankrupt, after an administrator – appointed in June 2011 – found the university was bankrupt and battled to meet payroll commitments.
In terms of the agreement, employees will be allowed to trade-off from their accumulated leave the shortfall between what they would have earned had the no-work-no-pay principle not been applied and what they will earn by way of the re-scheduled work programme.
According to Qonde, the WSU management has indicated that the university will benefit in the long-term in that its leave liability is reduced and this will assist in mitigating the current financial state in which the university finds itself.
Qonde said the department was encouraged by the decision by management and staff to set up a catch-up plan that will ensure that the academic year will not be lost and students will be assisted in every way possible.
WSU catch up plan:
Part of the catch up plan includes re-aligning the academic calendar, forfeiting their September holiday period, allocating more hours to lectures and having classes on Saturdays and public holidays.
“The academic calendar year will also be pushed well into December. Placing emphasis on education, learning and teaching remains the key focus for the university and all efforts are being put in place to ensure that the throughput and success rates of the University is improved over time,” said the Director General in a statement on Tuesday.
Qonde was confident that the work done by the administrator had established a firm foundation for a more stable governance system, a stronger financial foundation, improved teaching and learning technology and academic culture, stabilised student governance and the ongoing harmonisation of human resource issues.
Strike action by unions:
Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane was appointed by President Jacob Zuma to investigate the problems that led to the indefinite closure of the institution after organisations, such as the SA Council of Churches in Mthatha, called for Zuma’s intervention as the situation deteriorated.
Students at that time protested and clashed with police. At least a dozen were injured during the confrontations.
Qonde says the default position of resorting to strike action by unions at universities remains a significant concern, particularly where an institution does not have the financial means to meet the unrealistic demands of labour unions.
“The department will always encourage constructive and meaningful engagement. We request the labour unions at WSU to develop a sense of ownership of the promising gains that have been made thus far in the turnaround strategy of the university and to work together with management and students in the significant efforts that are being made to restore stability to the university.”