Protracted strike at University of Fort Hare comes to an end

National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) members at the University of Fort Hare have agreed to end their protracted strike, despite not all their demands being met.

The workers have been on strike for almost two months as they would not accept the university’s offer of a 7.5% salary increase, which they have now agreed on.

"We pursued talks with the university and agreed that we will sign the current agreement. This is only because we are parents, and have always viewed the material conditions on the ground because it is about time that students now write their exams," the trade union's provincial secretary Miki Jaceni told News24 on Sunday. 

Last Wednesday Jaceni had told News24 that the union was demanding an increase of 8% and a notch progression of 1%.

Jaceni said although they have settled for a lower figure and agreed to end the strike, they would continue engaging with the university and the Department of Higher Education and Training on other matters that are of concern to them. 

"We suspended the strike to allow the process of teaching and learning to continue. We don’t want to be seen as selfish people who continue to fight for 0.5% whilst exams continue to be affected," he said. 

Spokesperson to Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor, Lunga Ngqengelele, has also confirmed that academic activities were expected to continue at the university after Pandor sent a director-general from the department to engage with the management and union. 

Ngqengelele said the delayed exams at the university have been a concern to the minister which led to the intervention. 

He added that the department would look into other issues raised by workers.

"The minister is happy that the university and union have reached a salary agreement and that starting from tomorrow [Monday] the university will go back to normality," Ngqengelele said. 

University spokesperson Khotso Moabi said the institution was looking forward to exams resuming under conducive environments and pushing towards concluding the year successfully. 

Moabi said the union has agreed to the institution's 7% annual salary increase, 0.5% notch increase and a R3000 once off gratuity payment. 

Last month he told News24 that the union's demands of 8% increases would place the university at odds with the Department of Higher Education directive that salary costs should not exceed 62% of the operational budget.

"If we were to accept the 8%, we would be infringing the directive of the department," Moabi said at the time.