Q & A with ASAWU President

1. Please describe your role and responsibilities within ASAWU? (How long have you held this role?)

I am the President of ASAWU.  I have been in this role since December 2015. Prior to that I was the Vice-President from late 2013. As the President, I provide oversight and strategic leadership on the issues we deal with which includes human resources matters, complex budgetary considerations, and contributing an academic staff perspective to the overarching strategic vision, direction, and governance of the university. Throughout, I have sought to adopt and promote a collegial tone that ensures academic staff are treated fairly. I believe that such an effort has been successful in terms of establishing a more cooperative, collaborative, open and understanding governance space at Wits. As the ASAWU chief negotiator for the three-year salary agreement, I led efforts to reach a collective agreement that resulted in one of the largest settlements ever achieved.2.

2. How has your experience shaped your development as an academic and as a member of staff at Wits University?

Sitting on the ASAWU Executive gives you real insight into the governance activities of the institution.  There are lots of strategic issues that need attention and to be addressed.  There are also lots of difficult matters that need to be treated with care.  In this sense, I have developed a huge sense of compassion towards others and the difficulties they face.

3. Can you talk about the most significant way in which ASAWU assists its members.

ASAWU acts as the main representative of academic staff in negotiations, strategic decision-making and in disciplinary and grievances circumstances.

4. What has been ASAWU’s greatest achievement in the past year?

Beyond our excellent record of representation and resolving staff disciplinary and grievance issues, ASAWU’s negotiated the largest ever salary increase in 2014 – 30% over three years.  That’s pretty awesome.

5. What has ASAWU got planned for the year in terms of its focus and activities?

ASAWU is undertaking a number of activities to renew our role and activities.  We will continue with our important representation tasks but are adding outreach through the Academic Citizen Podcast, a new website, and a whole host of research into the working conditions facing academics.  We are also seeking to establish a national voice for academic staff in the country to advocate for larger sector wide issues.

6. Why should staff join the union?

Isn’t it obvious?  We do such a fantastic job representing staff interests!

7. What role does the union play within the university community and in society, more broadly?

We are advocates for the rights and responsibilities of academic staff and of university education more broadly – locally, in South Africa, and beyond our borders.  We believe strongly in the idea that a strong, active, and coherent academic staff union/association contributes to a quality education environment and towards the betterment of South African society.