University of Cape Town refuses to honour 2022 remuneration agreement with the Employees Union
The 2022 salary negotiation began with the Employer offering a 3,8% salary increase to employees in the Pay classes 7 - 12. The Employees Union rejected the offer.
The Employer reverted with a final offer of 5% increase for salaries in the Pay classes 7 - 12. A poll amongst the EU membership voted to accept the 5% salary increase for 2022.
The Employees Union was the first labour union to sign a remuneration agreement with the employer for the period 2022.
The sentiment for accepting the 5% remains that the membership of the Employees Union are cognisant of sustainability of the University finances and to ensure increased salaries in January 2022 to buffer the annual increases such as food inflation, rentals, school fees, school uniforms, school stationery and other living expenses.
As a safeguard to protect the members in the pay classes 7 - 12, the Employees Union Executive included the following clause; "Increases will be effected in the January 2022 payrun. In the event of a further adjustment being applied to other staff bodies, the Employees’ Union will be aligned accordingly and will not be compromised." into the memorandum of agreement.
The spirit of the safeguard clause meant that if the employer offered any salary adjustment above 5% to other bargaining units, then the employer is liable to pay the same increased salary adjustment to the pay classes 7 - 12.
When the Employer offered 5,2% to the Academic staff, all staff in the pay classes 7 - 12 received the increased (5,2%) amount as per the safeguard agreement clause.
The employer further offered staff in the pay classes 2 - 6 a R2 100,00 payment over and above the 5,2% annual salary increase. The R2 100,00 payment translated to a full 1% annual salary increase on the 5,2%. The R 2 100,00 payment is included in the annual COE amount of the pay classes 2 – 6. Any new staff that are hired within the year 2022, will qualify to receive the R2 100,00 payment.
- The R2 100,00 payment is subject to South African Revenue Service taxation as remuneration.
- Any increase in the Cost Of Employment in 2023 will be based on the 5,2% increase of 2022 plus the R2 100,00 payment.
- The R2 100,00 payment is not a once off amount as the University of Cape Town management and executive claims it to be.
The Employees Union demanded that the employer pay the same increased amount to staff in pay classes 7 - 12 as per the memorandum of agreement.
The University of Cape Town employer vehemently refused.
The Employees Union referred the matter to the CCMA (WECT2804-22_2) on 23 February 2022.
At the Conciliation phase of the CCMA referral, the University of Cape Town employer, claimed that the R2 100,00 did not form an adjustment to the salary and did not subvert the safeguard clause in the Employees Union 2022 remuneration agreement.
The CCMA issued a certificate for Arbitration.
The issue before the CCMA Arbitration hearing was to interpret the safeguard clause in the 2022 Memorandum of agreement in respect of the spirit in which the clause meant to achieve.
The Employees Union contracted a labour attorney to represent it at the CCMA Arbitration on 30 June 2022.
The University of Cape Town appointed senior counsel to defend their stance for not paying some staff the R2 100,00 payment and treating other staff differently - despite signing an agreement that is legally binding.
The University of Cape Town employer objected to the presentation of material evidence on the matter by the Employees Union.
The University of Cape Town opposed evidence, in which some of its own management agreed with the safeguard clause 2.1 in the 2022 remuneration agreement. These management staff members supported the spirit of the agreement; that the R 2 100,00 should be paid to PASS Staff in the pay classes 7 - 12.
This is a copy of the email conversation.
The University of Cape Town also opposed a recording of a meeting, in which management and other labour unions colluded together to deny the R2 100,00 payment to staff in pay classes 7 - 12. These are labour unions that represent staff at the University.
CCMA commissioner, Joseph Williams, adjudicated in the matter.
Commissioner Williams deliberated that, "In applying my mind to the submissions made by the parties, including copies of the various collective agreement, which was submitted in evidence, I am mindful of the provisions of section 23(1)(a) of the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 which makes provision for the binding nature of the collective agreement where parties have entered into the collective agreement."
On the specific clause, 2.1 to be interpreted "Increases will be effected in the January 2022 payrun. In the event of a further adjustment being applied to other staff bodies, the Employees’ Union will be aligned accordingly and will not be compromised."
Commissioner Williams ruled that the agreement that was signed by University Management and the other labour unions representing staff at the University, "The agreement specifically states it is once off which will be paid in the February 2022 payroll and not be extended outside of the Coalition of Unions. If one interprets this clause, the R 2 100 is payable only in the February 2022 payroll and only to those covered by the scope of this agreement. A once off payment cannot be regarded as a salary increase."
Commissioner Williams argued that, "The UCTEU has not convinced me in their arguments and submissions as outlined above inclusive of applying applicable case law in interpreting the Collective Agreement of the UCTEU that the pay increase in clause 2.1 would include an ex gracia payment of R 2 100. The adjustment salary was applied to the cost of employment in the 5,2% increase to the UCTEU and academic staff and the ex gracia payment is only applicable to the Coalition of Unions constituency."
Commissioner Williams ruled, "The applicant UCTEU is unsuccessful in its dispute referral to the CCMA and its application is dismissed."