Striking DUT staff protest outside the Vice Chancellors office in Durban as Mi7 security block access to the building. Picture: JACKIE CLAUSEN
Striking DUT staff protest outside the Vice Chancellors office in Durban as Mi7 security block access to the building. Picture: JACKIE CLAUSEN

An ongoing staff strike at the beleaguered Durban University of Technology (DUT) has forced the institution to delay the start of the academic year by a week.

Lectures were due to kick off on Monday February 5, however‚ the impasse between management and staff over wage increase demands has resulted in the university moving the commencement of academic activities to Monday February 12. The decision was made on Thursday.

Despite management and three labour unions going back to the negotiating table on Wednesday‚ no common ground was reached.

The unions were initially asking for a 10% salary increase‚ a R400 increase on their monthly housing allowance, and a R9,000 once-off bonus. But on Wednesday‚ after meeting‚ the unions dropped their demands to an 8% increase in basic salary‚ a R350 housing allowance, and no once-off bonus.

DUT’s final offer was a 6.5% increase for both basic salaries and housing allowances — and they would not offer a once-off bonus.

"Labour was not prepared to revise their position‚" DUT’s spokesperson Alan Khan said on Thursday, adding that the intervention of a mediator now needs to be explored.

"The unions have rejected the university’s request for the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration or another independent mediator to assist. While protestors have tried to disrupt student registration‚ the university remains open. Students are registering online."

Khan said the university had urged unions to concentrate on resolving the salary deadlock rather than focus on allegations directed against the vice-chancellor Prof Thandwa Mthembu.

"Our combined objective should be to resolve the current salary crisis so that more of our students can register quicker and our academic programme can start soonest‚" Khan said.

The unions — the National Education‚ Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu)‚ in particular — have called for Mthembu’s removal, saying in a statement on Wednesday: "We demand strong leadership at DUT to end the current impasse between the union and management."