Response to allegations made against the UCT executive

25 August 2017
VC Desk


25 August 2017

Dear colleagues and students

On Tuesday, 22 August, at the TB Davie Memorial Lecture, allegations of callousness and acting in bad faith by the University of Cape Town executive were made by a group of protesters. I write to respond to these allegations, which I believe are incorrect. The allegations focused on the performance bonuses of the executive and the working conditions of recently insourced workers.

The executive takes the matter of the financial sustainability of UCT extremely seriously. We introduced austerity measures as a way to ensure institutional sustainability in the longer term. Even though executive remuneration is a small portion of the overall salary bill, the most senior members of the senior leadership group (SLG) wished to send a signal to the university regarding remuneration and austerity by voluntarily accepting lower salary increases than the rest of the university. From 2015 to 2016, I took a 0% increase, the deputy vice-chancellors (DVCs) took a 2.5% increase and the executive directors, registrar and deans took a 3.1% increase. Other professional, administrative support and service (PASS) staff (in pay classes 5–12) received a 6.8% increase from 2015 to 2016; academic staff received a 5.8% increase; and clinical staff received a 7% increase. 

The voluntary cap on increases for senior staff is indicative of an executive that cares and signals our personal commitment to the austerity project.

In addition, it is important to note that as a further measure of how seriously we viewed the issue, I gave in donations the full amount of my bonus that was received during the 2015/16 cycle. I did not have the power to decide to simply remove the bonus system for any given group of staff, whether in management positions, academia or the PASS staff. Performance bonuses at all levels of employment within UCT are part of the remuneration policy. The University Council’s Remuneration Committee determines the SLG’s salaries and bonuses. If staff wish to discuss the removal of the bonus system, that is possible, and will need to be negotiated with the unions going forward. The executive is open to these discussions if there is a call to do so.

Approximately R21 million was paid for the same performance period in ‘exceeds’ and ‘discretionary’ awards (performance bonuses) to PASS staff – not including the executive. A further R5.4 million was paid in excellence awards to professors and in merit awards to academic staff. This is in addition to the mechanism of rewarding academics through ad hominem promotion, which in 2016 cost the university a further R14.5 million. In effect, the cost of all the ways of recognising exceptional performance across the university by staff was R43 million.

The setting of SLG salaries at UCT is based on benchmarking with comparative universities and the market. Particularly at this time when we are trying to recruit deputy vice-chancellors and deans, and in the next six months a vice-chancellor (VC), the Remuneration Committee has been concerned that our salaries at this level should remain competitive and preferably be slightly above the market (the benchmark of the 60th percentile of the comparator group of universities). In fact, the UCT VC’s salary is currently 13% below the 60th percentile of the group and the DVCs are 9% behind the 60th percentile.

With regards to complaints around the working conditions of recently insourced workers, it is important to state that the executive of UCT and many staff members have worked tirelessly over the last year to address issues and to ensure the smooth insourcing of workers at UCT. We are still in negotiations with unions and workers on issues that can be improved and we will honour our ongoing commitment to resolve any issue that may arise.

But we are also very clear that we have already addressed multiple issues that were raised and that the conditions for insourced workers have improved significantly, with a reduction in working hours and even more significant increases in remuneration. In the process of insourcing, all staff were brought onto UCT’s standard system of monthly wages, which is different from the previous basis of pay on an hourly wage basis. The insourced staff are paid an all-in monthly package that covers all shifts and weekend work, which is between 59% and 96% more (in pay classes 2–5) than before the staff were insourced.

In addition to the increase in pay, insourced workers received further benefits when moving from Basic Conditions of Employment (BCEA), which most companies offered, to permanent staff at UCT. Below is a breakdown of the improvement in their benefits:


Basic Conditions of Employment

Permanent PASS staff at UCT

Remuneration policy

Various – some subject to minimum in sectoral agreements

Benchmarked against 60th percentile of National All Jobs Market. This is between 59% and 96% higher. The UCT package can include cash salary, bonus, medical-aid subsidy, housing subsidy and pension or provident fund.

Annual leave: PASS staff

15 working days per annum

26 working days per annum

Sick leave

1 day per month worked or 1 hour for every 26 hours worked. Over first 3 years, a maximum of 36 days

2.5 days per month worked as part of a 6-year cycle with a maximum of 90 days over first 3 years

Family responsibility leave

BCEA 3 days

5 working days paternity leave, 5 working days family responsibility leave. See: Family responsibility leave policy

Staff Education Bursary


Up to R7 500 per annum

Maternity leave

BCEA (4 months unpaid, may apply for UIF)

4 months full pay


Study leave

Not eligible

For preparation: 1 day per exam (max 6); to write exam: 1 day per exam (max 6)

Special leave (all categories)

Not eligible

As per current policy
Special leave (PASS)

Pension/provident funds

Various deductions with limited risk-cover benefits

Compulsory membership at 22.5% of deemed pensionable amount including 7 times life cover and income continuation benefit if sick or disabled


Medical aid

Not eligible

Compulsory membership from pay class 6; voluntary membership for pay classes 2–5

Staff tuition rate

Yes, in accordance with the staff tuition fee rate policy

Yes, in accordance with the staff tuition fee rate policy

Medical aid post retirement subsidy

Not applicable

As per policy

Long service awards

Only G4S had long-service awards previously. The other staff had no long-service awards.

Long-service awards to members of PASS staff take the form of a cheque or a gift to the value of:

1. R1 000 for those who have completed 10 years of service

2. R3 000 for those who have completed 15 years of service

3. R6 000 for those who have completed 25 years of service

4. R9 000 for those who have completed 35 years of service

5. R12 000 for those who have completed 45 years of service.

I trust that the information that I have provided above addresses the allegations made and once again I reaffirm the UCT executive’s commitment to continue engaging with staff and students on issues of concern.

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