By LOYISO DYONGMAN
The National Union of Civil Servants and Allied Sectors (Nupsaw) workers strike at Rhodes University, which began on 9 August, has been partially suspended.
Nupsaw provincial organiser Lerato Thethe said Tuesday that union members would continue picketing during lunchtimes.
Nupsaw, a South African Federation of Trade Unions affiliate, wants Rhodes University to recognise it as a workers union at the institution.
Rhodes University said Nupsaw had not complied with the provisions of the Labour Relations Act as outlined in Section 21(2), which states that a union must supply facts relied upon to demonstrate that it is a representative trade union.
“There has been an indirect but minimal impact on academic activities,” said Rhodes University spokesperson Velisile Bukula. He said negotiations were ongoing.
Bukula said the university has a collective agreement with National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and National Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU), stipulating the threshold for representation is 25%.
But Nupsaw is demanding recognition and disputing the figures.
“The strike is still on until we get Section 12 and 13 rights [under the Labour Relations Act] – access to the workplace, deduction of union levies, the appointment of shop stewards, leave for union activities, and access to information -.as a means of resolving the strike for the short term,” Thethe said.
“The 25% threshold issue will be contested at a later stage,” he added.
Nupsaw workers are mostly employed in housekeeping, cooking and as general workers.
A cook, who did not wish to be identified, said, “I have been working here at the same department for 12 years. But I’m still on contract. All they do is extend it and not employ you permanently. That is why we want a worker-controlled union.”
A general worker said, “I have been here since 2012 but still on the same grade. People arrive after you and get promoted and you will never know or understand how that happens. There are no promotion opportunities here and especially for people like us, general workers, cleaners, laundry workers or housekeepers. There is no transparency and transformation here. All that is happening is the exploitation of workers and with no staff development. ”
The university said all its staff have the opportunity to apply for posts at higher levels. It said several posts are advertised internally to facilitate advancement opportunities for staff.