Vice-chancellor Adam Habib salary increase

Photo: The University of the Witwatersrand

Adam Habib calls on CEOs to forgo salary increases for the next five years

He says it is unreasonable to ask trade unions to accept nominal salary increases when politicians and upper management are treated more favourably.

Vice-chancellor Adam Habib salary increase

Photo: The University of the Witwatersrand

University of Witwatersrand vice-chancellor Adam Habib believes South Africa’s private sector would have an easier time in wage negotiations with trade unions if top leadership agreed not to take salary increases for the next five years.

Habib was making the keynote address at the annual KwaZulu-Natal provincial conference of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA) in Durban.

The rich should skip salary increases

He told attendees that it was unreasonable to ask staff and trade unions to accept measured salary increases when upper management would not be doing the same.

“If we are going to ask our unions to be serious about measured salary increases, we must start demanding the same of the CEOs and the rich,” he said.

“The cabinet needs to not take salary increases for the next five years. And the CEOs of the top 200 companies should not take a salary increase for the next five years. And frankly, the same should apply for vice-chancellors like me.”

More effective wage negotiations

He was confident that wage negotiations would go a lot more smoothly if both sides felt like they were on a level playing field and suggested the money saved could be used to boost education in South Africa.

He said once that was accomplished, there was a greater likelihood of unions agreeing to realistic salary increases.

“This is one of the ways money could be found to invest in the educational enterprise so that our children are not deprived.”

Public sector salary cut

Treasury director-general Dondo Mogajane recently suggested that public sector servants receive a 10% wage reduction in order to cut the government wage bill and create funds to help boost South Africa’s struggling economy.

This idea was angrily rejected by trade unions across the country, leading to Habib’s suggestion that maybe the private sector and cabinet ministers should skip salary increases for five years to make the idea seem more palatable.

Stand up to unreasonable requests from trade unions

Habib also had a harsh warning for the gathered educators about the behaviour of some trade unions. He told the gathered crowd that they should not be scared to tell their trade union no if they asked them to down tools at an inappropriate time.

“If the union is calling you out in the course of the working day, your responsibility as educationists is to say ‘suka wena’. Tell them, there is no way I am coming out without completing my class, because my vocation and my responsibility is to those children,” he said.

The straight-talking Wits vice-chancellor did not mince his words when describing the state of education in South Africa.

“We are in an educational crisis – let’s admit it, let’s not lie about it or manufacture statistics about it,” he added.

“Every year, after the matric results, the minister of education pops up on SABC and says how well we are doing and how we are improving. Really? Let’s first acknowledge that we have a crisis, then let’s start asking how to fix that crisis and what all of our roles should be.”