UCT staff to down tools over ‘insulting’ salary increase

Staff of the University of Cape Town on Friday said they were preparing to down tools to protest against their latest salary increases.

In a statement, the academic staff said this would be a first in the university’s history.

“Academic staff are committed to go on strike over what they feel is an insulting and derisory pay increase of 3% offered for the 2023 year. Consumer price inflation (CPI) in 2022, according to Stats SA this week, was 6.9%. The universities that UCT has historically used as comparators in setting pay increases have been able to offer their employees at least a 6% increase,” said the statement from Academics Union, to which most of the staff are affiliated.

The union said 87% of their members support the protest action.

“We are anticipating the issuance of a strike certificate from the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) this (Friday) afternoon,” the union added.

The 3% increase was offered in December. Efforts to negotiate with the university for more were reportedly unsuccessful.

“We find it hard to accept that UCT, as one of the premier universities in South Africa, is unable to match the increases offered by other higher education institutions,” said the leader of the union salary bargaining team, Kelley Moult.

“The insult is further compounded by the university having budgeted for an R183m increase in student financial aid (a 106% increase from 2022). Matching the pay increases offered by other universities would cost about R90m,” Moult added.

“This is not greed on the part of academic staff at UCT. We have emerged from a harrowing and stressful time of moving to online teaching and learning during Covid-19, and this offer would see our members 4% worse off in real terms.”

The strike is expected to last three days but the union said it could be extended.

Prof Andrew Lilley, president of the AU, said: “The time has come for academic staff to make it clear in no uncertain terms that they reject the offer made by the university management.”

The timing of the strike was strategic, Lilley said.

“This strike will affect the university in the key weeks leading to the release of the 2022 supplementary examination results, and registration for the 2023 academic year. If there is no settlement, academic activities such as teaching may be adversely affected too,” Lilley said.


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