Update on bargaining engagements and planned UCT EU action

07 February 2024 | Emer Prof Daya Reddy

Dear colleagues and students

I write to share an update on the 2024 bargaining engagements for both academic and Professional, Administrative Support and Service (PASS) staff at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

While we would very much have wanted to conclude these engagements much earlier, negotiations by their very nature can continue for longer than anticipated as more complex issues are thoroughly considered by both parties in the interest of reaching an amicable agreement. The UCT management remains committed to working with the unions towards a speedy conclusion of the negotiations.

As you are aware, UCT currently has separate bargaining units for academic and PASS staff. This is, of course, something the university continues to work towards changing, with the ultimate goal being that of a single bargaining unit for all staff.

Engagements with the Academics Union have been proceeding, and both parties have approached these in a constructive and cordial manner.

As was the case last year, we have commenced engagements with the relevant PASS unions, ie the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU), the Democratised Transport Logistics and Allied Workers Union (DETAWU) and the UCT Employees Union (UCT EU) with a view to finalising a single bargaining forum for pay classes 2-12. We are pleased to indicate that DETAWU and NEHAWU have already signed the collective single bargaining agreement.

It should be noted that the confidential nature of the engagements precludes me from sharing much of the detail at this stage. I will of course share further updates once the negotiations have been concluded.

However, UCT has since received from the UCT EU a non-compliant notice of intention to embark on a strike. The strike action is set to commence on Thursday, 8 February 2024. The university management finds this regrettable, given our commitment to engaging constructively with the aim of resolving issues amicably, as well as to ensuring that there is no impact on the 2024 academic year.

Management wishes to assure members of the UCT community that we are doing everything possible to ensure that there is minimal impact on the university’s operations. We will continue to work towards ensuring that the planned strike action is either not pursued or is brought to a speedy end.

Should the action proceed, the university will work through the Properties and Services department to ensure that areas that are likely to be affected by limited staff availability – for example, catering, cleaning and transport – continue to operate as efficiently as possible with skeleton staff. Faculties will also put in place measures to ensure that the impact on the ongoing registration process is minimised.

Security operations across all campuses will remain at usual levels as Campus Protection Services is classified as an essential service.

All employees who wish to participate in this protest action are reminded to comply with the provision of the Labour Relations Act, as well the picketing rules signed by UCT and the UCT EU. Employees are also reminded that the principle of ‘no work no pay’ will apply. UCT reserves the right to interdict a strike that is not in compliance with the provisions of the Labour Relations Act.

I also remind staff of the communication I issued recently, in relation inter alia to conduct during legitimate protest action. I reiterate that UCT strongly upholds the constitutional right to legitimate protest on campus. But any such protest action has to be within the bounds of what is lawful: the right to protest should not infringe on others’ rights, including the right to freedom of movement; nor should it result in unlawful and/or violent acts affecting members of the UCT community or university property; or interfere with university business.

Regarding the planned protest action, I provide an update on some of the issues raised by the UCT EU.

“Increase 2024 salaries by 7.5%”

Negotiations around the 2024 salary increase are continuing. We are already at an advanced stage with the negotiations for academic staff. However, we have not yet received any demands from all the PASS unions, ie DETAWU, NEHAWU and the UCT EU; and we have not commenced bargaining for PASS staff in payclasses 2-12 due to the UCT EU’s delay in signing the agreement. The UCT management is optimistic that the forthcoming negotiations will result in an agreement that takes into consideration the reality of the university’s current financial situation and the need for staff members to be remunerated appropriately.

“Immediate release of payments of the performance awards for June 2022 to May 2023 cycle”

The payment of performance awards is contingent on the conclusion of the salary negotiations for the current year. It is therefore not feasible at this stage to make any payments prior to an agreement being reached by both parties on the 2024 salary increase.

“Address the issue of academic vs PASS staff bullying”

Council approved the Policy Addressing Bullying in 2021. The policy underscores UCT’s commitment to creating, promoting, and maintaining a safe, welcoming and inclusive working, learning and research environment that is free from any form of harassment or bullying.

“Implement a unified bargaining forum”

As indicated earlier, the university has already begun work in this regard. This includes the merging of PASS negotiations into a single bargaining unit with effect from 2023. The next phase will be work around merging both the academic and PASS bargaining units.

With regard to the 2023 UCT EU salary and non-salary demands, the union lodged a dispute on these demands with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). The matter was not successfully resolved at the CCMA on 24 November 2023.

We will continue engaging around these and other issues raised by the UCT EU as part of the continuing engagements with PASS unions. I reiterate that the UCT management remains committed to working towards the amicable resolution of issues raised.


Emer Prof Daya Reddy
Vice-Chancellor interim

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