Classes at Walter Sisulu University disrupted again

Just more than a week after an agreement was reached to end a seven-week long strike that brought the Walter Sisulu University (WSU) in the Eastern Cape to its knees, classes have been disrupted again.

The latest disruption occurred when lecturers were not paid their salaries today.

Xolani Malamlela, the provincial secretary of the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), said this nonpayment risked sparking another long strike.

Malamlela said they were doing everything in their power to avoid another strike.

He lambasted WSU management for not caring for its employees’ wellbeing.

“We are trying to avoid a full-blown action but we are dealing with management which does not care. Classes are now disturbed again and we can only blame WSU management for that,” he said.

He said after a deal was reached last week for lecturers to go back to class and to accept a 5% salary increase instead of the 8%-10 % they had demanded, it was agreed the September salaries would be paid today.

But when this did not happen and no communication was given, it created confusion and anxiety as workers held meetings today to map the way forward and deserted their classes in various campuses.

Malamlela said they have suggested a joint bargaining forum meeting with management tomorrow to discuss the salary issue.

WSU spokesperson Angela Church confirmed that lecturers at the university had downed tools but said this only happened at the main campus in Mthatha.

“I am informed that the Mthatha campus staff have downed tools as the expectation is that September salaries are not going to be paid today as anticipated. Operations are continuing normally at the other campuses,” she said.

Church said lecturers would be paid tomorrow and their salaries would reflect in their bank accounts on Friday.

She said it was unfortunate that the staff had chosen to down tools so soon after the agreement reached last week.

She said the agreement did not give a specific date for payment of the September salary run.

“It was generally understood that payment could be made on the 18th provided that the August salary run was managed by a third party. The August salaries were paid on September 12 in-house. As the preparation of the pay run takes five working days to complete, September salaries will be paid tomorrow, Thursday, September 19 and will reflect in staff bank accounts on Friday September 20 2013.”

Siphelele Gavu, the Student Representative Council secretary, said management needed to pay lecturers so that classes can go back to normal.

“If lecturers are not paid and end up going on strike, that reflects badly on our academic enterprise,” said Gavu.

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