FEDUSA Calls on Minister Nzimande to Nullify DUT Retrenchments

31 August 2021

The Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) has called on Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande to nullify irregular retrenchments of teaching staff by management at the Durban University of Technology earlier this month.

FEDUSA also demands that Minister Nzimande immediately intervene in this process and bring order as the custodian of the nation’s higher education landscape. The union federation wants to see the same amount of consideration given to the plight of lecturers who impart and shape the intellectual strength of our future leaders; as was accorded to students when they battled for better learning conditions during the #FEESMUSTFALL crisis. We demand nothing less.

FEDUSA affiliates at DUT, the Tertiary Education Union of South Africa (TENUSA) and the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) strongly believe that management has advanced an irrational and legally unsound operational rationale for initiating a Section 189A retrenchment process in the first place.

FEDUSA and COSATU unions at the institution are now working collectively on this matter as membership across the affiliation divide have been equally affected.

It must also be placed on record that management callously refused to consider alternatives to retrenchments that were jointly proposed by organized labour at the institution on many occasions. The final reconciliation meeting at the CCMA on the 30 July 2021 meeting at the CCMA ended abruptly without the parties being given an opportunity to explore and exhaust alternative avenues.

About two weeks later on 13 August 2021, all affected employees were dismissed after being given only two days’ notice and a full term’s salary. However, organized labour believes this is wasteful and fruitless expenditure because they do not have to report for duty.

The Federation is also deeply concerned about by the high rate of suspension of union officials and believes that this points to a clear approach to silence unions at the institution.

“The era of popular dictatorships ended a long time ago, perhaps this Vice Chancellor needs to wake up and smell his own coffee because it has gone cold.  His tendency to spend like there is no tomorrow and run DUT like it is his own company flies in the face of the social co-determination compacts being reached through NEDLAC and other sectors,” said FEDUSA General Riefdah Ajam.

“While we appreciate that the Minister’s powers are limited in terms of the Higher Education Act, he is not completely disempowered from calling the governance structures to order, and if necessary, appoint an assessor to determine what is the real state of this forlorn institution.”

There are strong grounds to believe that retrenchments were carried out with the tacit approval of Council.

Labour is also concerned that these retrenchments are also ill timed as they are happening in the middle of the academic year and will negatively affect the quality of teaching and learning.

(469 Words)

For interviews please contact:

Ms Riefdah Ajam

FEDUSA General Secretary

079 696 2625

Mr Ashley Benjamin

FEDUSA Deputy General Secretary

083 258 4433