/ 19 December 2013

Wits, unions reach staff salary agreement

Students at Wits University are protesting to express their dissatisfaction with university management.
Students at Wits University are protesting to express their dissatisfaction with university management.

University of the Witwatersrand's management and three unions have at last reached an agreement on salaries and other service conditions that brings an end to more than a year of industrial action.

"Following months of consultation with internal constituencies and negotiation with the three key unions represented at Wits, I am pleased to announce that all three unions have signed the salary agreement for 2014,” vice-chancellor Adam Habib said this week.

Habib inherited the dispute when he took office in June. A multi-year salary agreement would be concluded by March 31 next year, he added.

Raimi Gbadamosi, president of the Academic Staff Association of Wits University (Asawu), told the Mail & Guardian the union was "pleased with the agreement”.

"It is a good agreement. It lays out the principles for increases for 2014 and sets a number of guidelines that will allow us to reach an agreement over a number of years … [and] to work together in a certain way in the future."

He said the agreement brings to an end a dispute that, for the first time in the university's 90-year history, united three Wits unions that together represent support and administrative staff and academics.

Since the unions declared a formal dispute in 2012, staff have engaged in a number of one-day strikes and boycotted various meetings.

Staff demands
Support staff, represented by the Administrative Library and Technical Staff Association and the Wits branch of the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union, demanded a 9% salary increase. The academic staff demands included increases in funding for research.

The agreement, announced internally last week, specifies that academic staff would receive 5.8% as a consumer price index increase, among other increases relating to functions such as teaching, supervision of students and administration.

On the Asawu demands relating to research funding, Habib's statement said: "All eligible academic staff members are also to receive 0.20% for research output (allocated to all rated researchers and academic staff with a record of three publications over a three-year period – i.e. covering the years 2010, 2011 and 2012).

"Those with shorter periods of employment at the university but with research outputs will be considered on a pro-rata basis for this factor."

'Set of amicable agreements'
For the support staff, the agreement specifies salary increases that vary between 5.8% and 6.2%, and that certain allowances would increase as well.

Gbadamosi cautioned, however, that negotiations for salary increases and working conditions would continue next year.

"There are definitely a number of things we still need to discuss, which are important. We can expect that, as we reach one set of amicable agreements, [the negotiations] will reveal things we did not expect."