CUPE Local 1356 Blog

Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 1356. We have three Collective Agreements as Local 1356, 1356-01, and 1356-02. The membership is comprised of the full-time and part-time workers of York University the Local website is at This Blog will include Local information and information garnered from sources other Universities, Colleges, Post Secondary/Tertiary Education and news sources supplying information.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

South African University Strikes Against Corporatisation

South African University Strikes Against Corporatisation

Students, workers, shack dwellers and academics at South Africa's largest teaching university, the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), are now in their 6th day of a militant strike against corporatisation. Thousands have marched under the banners of education for all, decent working conditions and academic freedom. One of the university's five campuses is under heavily armed police occupation and serious clashes between police and strikers look increasingly likely.
Previous attempts to arrest the rapid corporatisation of the university have been dealt with brutally. In 2000 a student, Michael Makhabane, was shot dead by police in a peaceful protest against the exclusion of poor students. No action has ever been taken against the police offer responsible. In 1996 a mass strike was crushed when then vice-chancellor, Marcus Ballintulo, invited white paramilitaries onto campus "to restore order".
The strike currently underway has specifically targeted the ongoing exclusion of poor students from the university, the super exploitation of workers and contract academic staff, attempts to evict shack dwellers living on the campus and various forms of corporate authoritarianism. These include the exclusion of unions from decision making structures, attempts by the university management to intimidate staff supporting radical social movements off the campus, the subordination of research agendas to the demands of big business, the World Bank and donor agencies and the banning of radical academic Ashwin Desai. Desai was fired and banned from the university after leading the 1996 strike. That banning was lifted in 2003 and no longer has any legal standing. Yet the vice-chancellor, Malegepuru Makgoba, unilaterally rebanned Desai from the university in later 2005 fearing that he would again lead protests against corporatisation. In fact there is a whole new generation of union activists willing to organise against corporatisation. But the banning led to protests from the respected Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa, radical intellectuals like Noam Chomsky, Antonio Negri and Naomi Klein and massive international campaign for academic freedom. A number of academic associations in Africa are contemplating a boycott of UKZN. Makgoba?s response has been to accuse Chomsky of 'dementia' and to claim that academics organising against corporatisation are 'lazy'.
Makgoba works closely with the World Bank and he even invited the Bank onto campus to design a "staff retention policy" in other words the World Bank will decide who gets hired and fired and under what conditions.
Makgoba has failed to meet any of the strikers' demands or even to meet with union representatives. Heads of Department, now called 'line managers', have been instructed to inform on strikers and strikers have been banned from marching on campus. But most department heads have openly defied the instruction to inform and thousands have marched in defiance of a ban on marching. A ban by Makogba's chief spin doctor, Dasarath 'Gundane' Chetty, on staff speaking to the media was overturned after a direct challenge by the highly respected Jimi Adesina, a progressive Nigerian academic.
Strikers are now demanding the immediate resignation of Makgoba, his management committee and the university council, which is stocked with the corporate elite.
Although UKZN is the only South African university where the rapid corporatisation of universities has struck a rock this strike is happening in the midst of a broader rebellion against the consequences of neo-liberal polices. Last year there were over 6 000 legal protests and 850 illegal protests across the country. In Durban 20 000 shack dwellers are planning to march into the city demanding land and housing on 20 February. Their march has been illegally banned by the notoriously authoritarian city manager, Mike Sutcliffe. The last time Sutcliffe illegally banned a march by shackdwellers he followed it up with major police violence against people who tried to march in defiance of the ban. But that violence didn?t crush the fighting spirit of shack dwellers. It only firmed the resolve to fight and their movement has grown rapidly. It's a lesson Makgoba would do well to heed.

Watch Indymedia South Africa for updates!

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