Wits Staff and Students Support UKZN Strike

February 17, 2006

If interested about the state of university politics in South Africa, please read the below (from a sociology professor at Wits University, which is a greedy, manical institution on a mission to screw its students and staff). Personally speaking, the University has treated me like a fat mark in a nasty con.

If you angry at this, sign the petition below and send it to: vanderwaltl@social.wits.ac.za

Dear colleagues,

As you may know, the University of KwaZulu Natal has been the subject of strike actions this week, starting on Monday 6 February. An unusual and impressive feature of the action has been that it has transcended the traditional divisions between academic and support staff, as well as racial divisions. The strike has involved four staff unions – the Combined Staff Association (Comsa), the University of Natal Staff Union (UNSU), the National Tertiary Education Staff Union (NTESU) and the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu). There has also been some student support, particularly at the Pietermaritzburg campus where over 1,000 students joined the strikers at one point, and promises of more.

Centred on salary increases, the strike has raised broader questions, reflecting staff frustration with an increasingly authoritarian management style, ongoing pressure to reduce leave benefits, fee remission benefits, leave entitlements and retrenchment packages, an attempt to slash R55 million off the staff budget over next year, and plans to use World Bank advisers in help design a new “staff retention policy.” A controversial “ban” on academic Ashwin Desai has also raised ire. The strike has also linked to student issues, like exclusions, registration fees, security, and delays in completing renovations in residences.

The statement by the four unions can be read at http://southafrica.indymedia.org/news/2006/02/9671.php

You can see some photos at http://southafrica.indymedia.org/news/2006/02/9648.php

A report from the strike, plus lots pf photos, can be found at http://www.nu.ac.za/ccs/default.asp?3,43,10,2347

Also see http://www.nu.ac.za/ccs/default.asp?2,27,3,881

I think it should be clear to all of us that the struggle at UKZN is a manifestation of the broader revolts taking place against neoliberalism – particularly as manifested at universities through financial austerity, corporatisation and commercialisation – and authoritarianism – exemplified by the centralisation of decision-making at universities, and the erosion of academic job control.

We have experienced similar pressures here at Wits, and not, I am sure, for the last time.

I would like to invite everyone to read the following statement, which will be sent to the UKZN unions in solidarity, to sign on, and make sure you send a SEND A COPY BACK TO vanderwaltl@social.wits.ac.za


We would like to send our best wishes to the unions and the strikers and the students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, who embarked upon industrial action from Monday the 6 February 2006.

Your struggle against neoliberal restructuring and authoritarian management is an inspiration to us all, faced by the uncertain future at the University of the Witwatersrand, itself starting a new cycle of restructuring. The previous Wits 2001 restructuring cost the jobs of 600 support workers, and led directly to a wave of quiet cuts in academic jobs, through post freezing, early retirements, and mergers.

It is through making our voices heard that staff can take control of their lives, and replace the dismal ethic of competition and suspicion with the wide horizons of solidarity and self-activity.

In solidarity,

Lucien van der Walt (Sociology, Wits University)


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