Eastcape Midlands College dismisses 66 striking NEHAWU-allied staff

FEBRUARY 2, 2015

The Eastcape Midlands College has dismissed 66 NEHAWU (National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union) staff members due to illegal strike action. This was announced after the strikers have ignored three ultimatums to return to work, breached a court interdict issued to protect staff, students and property and not attending a disciplinary hearing. 

College management is confident that it has taken all possible steps to restore normality.

“As we are committed to quality teaching, learning and assessment in a safe environment, management has put various plans in place to ensure positive progress,” says Danie Kilian, Vice-Principal Registration of the college.

PLANS FOR PROGRESS

The plans for progress include the following:

  • The extension of the application and registration period for prospective students from 2 to 17 February 2015.
  • Extended communication to the community to keep the public, prospective- and current students and their families informed regarding the facts.
  • Academic interventions are in place to compensate for lost time.
  • The college requested assistance in terms of additional administration staff from NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme) to accelerate the bursary administration process. This will speed up financial assistance to students.

BACKGROUND TO THE SITUATION

NEHAWU raised various matters with college management during early 2014.

At that stage the established Employer/Employee Forum engaged with NEHAWU concerning these matters in an attempt to alleviate the mounting feelings of dissatisfaction. After many attempts to address the matters amicably, NEHAWU withdrew from the Forum in late 2014, citing that they do not recognise the functional value of the Forum.

During this period NEHAWU members embarked on an unprotected strike action, granting no further room for negotiations at that stage. This paralysed the teaching and learning process at the college and tarnished the institution’s reputation.

A number of their grievances were labour related matters, which do not fall in the ambit of college management, but are linked to directives, policy and procedures from DHET (Department Higher Education and Training).

On 13 January 2015 NEHAWU once again embarked on a full scale illegal, unprotected industrial action. This action was marked by the following:

  • Intimidation of staff, students, potential students and parents.
  • The contravention of a subsequent interdict which was sought, based on the above.
  • The disregard for three ultimatums presented to them.
  • The vandalising of college property and damage to staff property.

The above offences have necessitated college management to close the college in the interest of the safety of all concerned, whilst attempting to restore the academic climate by negotiating with NEHAWU representatives. One such negotiation session was held on 19 January 2015 in Port Elizabeth.

During this meeting consensus was reached regarding the six issues presented by NEHAWU. Subsequent to this the college management decided to re-open the college operations on Tuesday 20 January 2015. Management furthermore made a concession regarding the ultimatum by granting NEHAWU an opportunity to give feedback to their members on 20 January 2015.

Contrary to what was evident during Monday’s meeting, the protest action of NEHAWU continued on 20 January 2015 to date.  The severity of the actions taken by NEHAWU escalated to the degree that college management was left with no option but to close the college for an indefinite period.

On Friday 30 January 2015, during a march to the Cuyler Campus Head Office, NEHAWU handed a memorandum containing all their grievances. This memorandum was received and signed by Ms Mbontsi from DHET Regional Office. The college dispel the grievances and demands cited in the memorandum.

The College Executive Committee instituted corrective measures against the NEHAWU members participating in the illegal unprotected strike in the form of disciplinary hearings. NEHAWU members were absent at the scheduled disciplinary hearing on Tuesday 27 January 2015. They were subsequently dismissed in absentia.

The letters of dismissal are being delivered by courier services. A disciplinary hearing is scheduled for all shop stewards on Tuesday, 3 February 2015.