Dispute declared against ARC over wage increases

Thursday, 20 April 2023

by Nico van Burick

Solidarity declared a dispute against the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) as they believe the management acts in “an obstinate and indifferent way” towards employees.

Solidarity says the wage dispute follows the ARC’s management tabling a final offer regarding raises without considering organised labour and undermining any negotiations pertaining to it. 

The union says it is absurd to expect employees, who have had to manage without any raises for several years, to accept offerings that do not keep up with inflation at the majority of job levels.

“It is hugely irresponsible to expect employees to absorb sharply rising costs of living and interest rates while other state institutions have already announced increases above inflation rate,” says Riaan Visser, Deputy General Secretary for the Mining, Agricultural and Chemical Sector at Solidarity.

“The ARC has decided to stick with an offer on a sliding scale that excludes employees at the higher job levels, flatly refusing to come to the table with any proposals or to move its targets. No attempt is even made to reach consensus. Such actions can be regarded as nothing but malicious.”

Solidarity points out that Dr Litha Magingza, who has filled the position of Chief Executive Officer of the ARC for barely a year, is already facing labour unrest if the management does not pay urgent attention to the needs of their employees. “The fact that the management does not take the task of looking after the interests of the employees seriously, is cause for concern. Its employees are of key importance to the ARC, which in turn plays a major role in agriculture and food security in South Africa. The role and input of the employees towards the council’s core function justify a market-related salary adjustment.”

Riaan says they will now go through the formal dispute process, and they hope to find a solution before it leads to something along the lines of industrial action. It started with an internal dispute meeting on 18 April and if an agreement cannot be reached, the dispute will be referred to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

The ARC’s offer entails a raise that varies between 7,5% at the lowest level to no raise at the highest level. Solidarity, which mainly represents employees at higher levels where the offer is below the inflation rate, insists on a raise of 8% for all employees across the board. 

“The management would rather sit back and think of excuses than wanting to remunerate employees or wanting to work towards turning the institution around. It is unacceptable that employees should be at the short end of the stick. Solidarity will not accept the ARC’s refusal to grant decent increases and will continue to fight against the exploitation of members.”

• The ARC management has yet to respond to Landbou.com/African Farming’s request for comment. 

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