Solidarity and the Northwest University (NWU) today reached a settlement after Solidarity approached the Labour Court on an urgent basis on 10 September after it had come to light that the NWU had recently made amendments to the employment contracts of its employees.
Solidarity approached the Labour Court on an urgent basis after the NWU had informed its employees in writing that they would go onto a new group life insurance scheme as from
1 August which would replace the current scheme as is stipulated in their original employment contracts. The new scheme is offered at a higher premium and, for many employees, it offers fewer benefits than the previous scheme. No proper consultation process on the matter was followed with employees or their representatives. Solidarity argued that the changes was unfair and therefore unlawful.
“Solidarity was prepared to negotiate with the NWU all along but had to resort to drastic steps when the university did not want to comply with its requests. Employers should not be allowed to make unilateral decisions that affect the conditions of service and the personal finances of their employees,” says Anton van der Bijl, head of Labour Law Services at Solidarity. “Solidarity had no choice but to approach the court to stop the process the NWU embarked on. Given the latest developments it is most disappointing that Solidarity had to resort to litigation when it was clear that the NWU should rather have followed a consultation process.”
In terms of the settlement, as ratified by the court, a full consultation process will now be followed that will involve both the employees and their representatives.
“It is unacceptable that there is a deception among employers that they have the right to violate employee rights and that they can change employment contracts unilaterally and without following correct procedure. We are satisfied with the course of events and by the fact that it has accentuated employees’ rights in the workplace.
Solidarity’s participation in the consultation process has been ensured by the ratification of the settlement reached, and therefore it will continue to act on behalf of its members in this matter in order to achieve a desirable outcome,” says Johan Botha, deputy general secretary for the professional sector at Solidarity.