Anger as striking Durban university workers find pay slashed

Lectures at Durban University of Technology have been suspended indefinitely

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Photo of protesting workers
Striking workers at the Steve Biko campus of the Durban University of Technology. Photo: Nomfundo Xolo

A strike by staff including academics over salaries at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) has entered its sixth week. Last week, the university senate suspended lectures indefinitely.

On Tuesday, protesting staff gathered at the Steve Biko Campus. Staff are paid on the 20th of the month. There was anger when they found their pay packets heavily reduced. Staff told GroundUp that they were aware of the “no work no pay rule” but demanded to know how their salaries had been calculated.

Spokesperson for the DUT Crisis Committee Milton Estrice was adamant the strike would continue until strikers’ demands were met. “We also need a thorough explanation why our salaries have been cut because we haven’t even received payslips to explain.”

Since the strike started in January, more than 21,000 students have not been able to attend lectures at the four campuses in Durban – Steve Biko, City, ML Sutan and Ritson campuses.

The chairperson of the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) at DUT, Mike Mbatha, said negotiations started last year September. DUT staff are currently demanding an increase of 8% in salary and R350 in the housing allowance, as well as a once-off bonus of R9,000.

“Our demands have not been taken seriously and this has caused an intense delay in teaching, in learning, as well as other services … Workers are discouraged to continue working because the [offer of] 6.5% increase in salary and [6.5%] in housing allowance, with no bonus, is an insult.

“The situation has been worsened now with the docking of our salaries. Workers are angered and without an explanation will have to go home with almost empty wallets,” Mbatha explained.

Sakhile Ngwenya, a third year student in Food Technology, said, “I’ve often wasted both time and money travelling to Durban. Each week I am hopeful that the strike will end and classes will begin. But week after week, it seems to be getting worse. We understand that the staff is frustrated and we plead with management to start taking their concerns seriously.”

Nonkosi Shange said she hadn’t been able to register or find accommodation although she had a bursary to study Electrical Engineering. “I have been coming to the Steve Biko Campus since January, each week hoping I’d get assistance. But the financial officers who are supposed to assist me are on strike. Now, we just get stopped at the gate by security guards who cannot help and they tell us to leave because there is nobody to assist us. It’s very frustrating because I’m from eShowe and have now been forced to pay for accommodation in town because home is too far. If this strike goes on, I might have to go back home,” said Shange.

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TOPICS:  Labour Tertiary Education

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