Walter Sisulu University: new offer on the table

A new offer that could end the Walter Sisulu University wage impasse will be discussed today.

Angela Church, spokesperson for the university, said a new “comprehensive proposal” had been tabled to union representatives to take to their members yesterday.

Church could not reveal the contents of the new proposal, but said management hoped it would bring an end to the strike that has lasted for seven weeks now with no learning taking place.

“All I can say is that negotiations are ongoing. We are now awaiting a decision from the unions in their consultations with their members on this new proposal. Unfortunately I cannot say what the new offer entails. It’s still a private matter and a lot is riding on this,” Church said, adding “talks are progressing well”.

She said everybody was working around the clock to bring the situation back to normal and for students to go back to class.

“This is not an ideal situation, more especially for the students.They are the ones who are feeling the brunt in all of this,” she said.

Xolani Malamlela, National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union provincial secretary, could not be reached for comment.

But this morning, two lecturers who requested not to be named, confirmed a meeting would be held at the Butterworth Campus today to discuss the new offer.

“We don’t know what the offer is, the union leaders have not told us yet. We have all been summoned to Butterworth and the offer will be made to us and we will then decide if we accept or reject it,” said one lecturer.

The latest moves in the WSU’s deadlock come as President Jacob Zuma finally entered the fray following weeks of calls for him to intervene by stakeholders and interested parties.

On Tuesday, Zuma’s spokesperson, Mac Maharaj, said the president was “looking into the matter” after receiving a request to intervene from the South African Council of Churches in Mthatha.

Maharaj said Zuma was appealing to all affected parties to strive for an amicable solution.

Zuma’s involvement comes almost two months since a labour dispute by WSU lecturers and administrative staff brought the institution to its knees.

The WSU employees and the management reached a deadlock when the staff demanded an 8 to 10% salary increase while management offered only 4.25%.

Since Monday, stakeholders, including university management and union representatives, were locked in negotiations.

As the university enters its seventh week without any learning taking place, students are in limbo. Though a directive was issued for them to vacate all campuses of the WSU, some have remained, while others are sitting idle at home.

The university has over 21 000 students across six campuses around the Eastern Cape.

This week there was little activity at the Mthatha, East London and Butterworth campuses where student clashed with police in the past two weeks.

United Democratic Movement leader and MP Bantu Holomisa, who wrote an open letter to Zuma last week, thanked the presidency for their prompt response.

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