UCT failed to bargain with Employees’ Union, says CCMA

The university has now committed to enter into negotiations with the union soon

By Liezl Human

4 April 2023

Wage negotiations between the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the UCT Employees’ Union are to start soon. Archive photo: Ashraf Hendricks

Wage negotiations between the University of Cape Town (UCT) and one of the largest representative unions — the UCT Employees Union — will start soon. This comes after negotiations with management deadlocked earlier this year after several referrals to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) last year.

The union represents a range of staff including administrative workers, technical officers, managers and executive directors. It is the union for most non-academic staff responsible for administration, technical work and management at the university. These are known as professional, administrative and support service (PASS) staff.

The UCT Employees’ Union had said that management had been refusing to come to the bargaining table over several issues related to salary increases. The dispute was then referred to the CCMA.

The union told the CCMA that UCT had acted in “bad faith” and that it had “frustrated the dispute resolution procedure” and “failed to schedule the dispute resolution hearing”.

The university denied that it had refused to bargain with the union. UCT said it had merely terminated its recognition agreement with the union in order to form a single bargaining unit including PASS staff.

But in a recent CCMA award, Commissioner Maureen de Beer stated that UCT had in fact refused to bargain with the union. She said the CCMA recommended both parties return to wage negotiations, and that all pay classes be included in one bargaining unit at the next year’s wage negotiations.

The Commissioner also noted that there appeared to be “a breakdown in the relationship between the current parties and other unions within the workplace”.

UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola told GroundUp that the university has committed to bargain with the union’s PASS staff “in the spirit of maintaining good labour relations”.

Union representative Samuel Chetty said that the UCT Employees Union has already sent its bargaining demands to the university, which include salary increases and non-salary demands. He said they’ve already discussed the terms of reference for the negotiations and expect the bargaining to start soon.

Chetty said the union supports suggestions by the CCMA that a single bargaining unit be formed to include the “lowest payclass to the highest payclass” at the university.