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The Silly Season – UCT Salary Negotiations December 1, 2006

Posted by Andreas in Cape Town, South Africa, University of Cape Town, Work.

With less than a month to go before the Christmas break, annual salary negotiations at the University of Cape Town, where I work, have begun in earnest.

Workforce unity in this proudly liberal, no, better make that neoliberal, institution has been systematically dismantled over the past few years: most of the cleaning and gardening staff have been ruthlessly outsourced to amongst others, Fidelity Supercare (an outfit that consistently stumbles over its own feet in the race to the bottom), the lower non-academic payclasses are represented by NEHAWU, the UCT Employees Union negotiates for all remaining non-academic (aka PASS) staff, while the academics are organised in the UCT Academics’ Association.

You get the picture: Divide and Conquer has been the watchword in hallways of Bremner (UCT’s admin building) for some time.

In the era of Grand Apartheid* local cynics used to refer to this place as “Moscow on the hill” – the irony! These days Washington by the Liesbeek would be equally appropriate.

Moscow on the hill or Washington by the Liesbeek?

NEHAWU and the Academics’ Association have already settled for a 5.5% increase (across the board and performance-related, respectively).

Yesterday, the UCT Employees Union (including yours truly, of course) rejected a similar offer from management!

When it wants to, the EU can be a feisty little union. Sure, it’s got nothing on the Wobblies, few if any of its members have ever pondered the virtues of anarcho-syndicalism and replacing capitalism with something better is certainly not on the agenda. But it’s independent, bolshy and its volunteer exec can only function through strong mandates from the membership.

It warms my heart to hear fellow PASS staff members – librarians, administrative assistants, technical and scientific officers – voice their dissatisfaction with management’s miserly offer, telling them to stick it!

We came away from the meeting with a clear consensus that:

  • we do not want to pay the unreasonable, discriminatory and punitive increases in staff parking fees before we see any improvements in the system
  • the performance appraisal system is not functioning satisfactorily at all
  • we want an increase comprised of an across the board portion that will provide financial stability for all, as well as an additional performance-related portion for high achievers.

Now all we need is to support the negotiating team in our numbers, document specific grievances and put facts on the ground. Aluta Continua and all that!

(* it just occurred to me that that term rolls of the tongue a bit like Grand Theft Auto and I guess it’s sort of the non-automotive equivalent on an infinitely larger scale!) .


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