CityPress - - News - MSINDISI FENGU msindisi.fengu@city­press.co.za

Deliwe Mzobe is one of 1 500 work­ers set to ben­e­fit from a de­ci­sion taken by Univer­sity of the Wit­wa­ter­srand (Wits) to do away with pri­vate sup­pli­ers fol­low­ing a re­lent­less cam­paign, ini­ti­ated in 2015, by #FeesMustFall and #Out­sourcingMustFall pro­test­ers.

Mzobe, who lives in Soweto, praised the stu­dents who, she said, “sac­ri­ficed their fu­ture” to get her a per­ma­nent job with a bet­ter salary and ben­e­fits at Wits.

She said she could now even “pay for the Rea Vaya” bus ser­vice to take her to work, in­stead of hav­ing to wake up early to catch a train.

She hopes that her child, who is cur­rently in Grade 10, will be able to study for free at Wits once he ma­tric­u­lates, as one of the ben­e­fits that ac­crue with the in­sti­tu­tion’s de­ci­sion to hire work­ers di­rectly and per­ma­nently.

Mzobe, a mother of two, worked as a cleaner for seven years with­out a med­i­cal aid, and earned about R2 000 a month.

“The stu­dent protests helped me be­cause while there were still talks go­ing on [about in­sourc­ing work­ers], our wages were raised to R4 500 and later, to R6 000. I got out of debt im­me­di­ately.

“We now get R7 800, but there are lot of de­duc­tions, in­clud­ing for tax and pen­sion funds, so we take home about R6 000.

“The de­duc­tions are hit­ting home and we still do not have med­i­cal aid be­cause Wit­sMed [the univer­sity’s med­i­cal scheme] is ex­pen­sive.”

Mzobe is a mem­ber of the Wits Work­ers’ Sol­i­dar­ity Com­mit­tee, a coali­tion of work­ers, staff and stu­dents formed to show ac­tive sol­i­dar­ity with out­sourced work­ers on cam­pus. She was also in­volved in talks with Wits man­age­ment about in­sourc­ing.

“In­sourc­ing was about those who were at picket lines and were shot at by po­lice. When work­ers were out­sourced, some man­agers were in­volved in a lot of cor­rup­tion and ex­ploita­tion of work­ers, and got their po­si­tions in ex­change for sex­ual favours,” she al­leged.

She said dur­ing the talks, stu­dents and work­ers tried to con­vince the univer­sity to bring su­per­vi­sors to the same level as ev­ery­one else and in­vite ev­ery­one to ap­ply for se­nior po­si­tions.

How­ever, they were ab­sorbed into the same po­si­tions and are now paid higher salaries, she said.

“Ini­tially, work­ers wanted to ne­go­ti­ate a wage of R12 500 in sol­i­dar­ity with Marikana mine work­ers in North West [who, in 2012, went on strike de­mand­ing this amount as base pay, re­sult­ing in one of the most vi­o­lent clashes with se­cu­rity forces in the coun­try’s his­tory, and 34 mine work­ers be­ing killed]. Even­tu­ally, work­ers re­ceived less than this amount, while it is su­per­vi­sors who now earn about R12 500,” she said.

Mzobe said along with the in­crease came the ben­e­fit of be­ing able to fur­ther one’s stud­ies by mak­ing use of the univer­sity’s bur­sary fund.

Wits spokesper­son Buhle Zuma con­firmed that the univer­sity agreed in prin­ci­ple in Novem­ber 2015 to pur­sue in­sourc­ing.

And, in June last year, the univer­sity coun­cil con­sid­ered pro­pos­als pre­sented by the In­sourc­ing Task Team, which com­prised an in­de­pen­dent ex­ter­nal chair­per­son and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of work­ers, man­age­ment, stu­dents and aca­demics, among oth­ers.

Wits ap­proved the task team’s rec­om­men­da­tions, with the pro­viso that it should be af­ford­able to the univer­sity. This cov­ered work­ers who per­form rou­tine and non­spe­cialised func­tions, such as clean­ers, cater­ing, se­cu­rity, trans­port, waste, grounds and land­scap­ing.

“In­sourc­ing now forms part of the univer­sity’s trans­for­ma­tion strat­egy to bring about an in­clu­sive so­ci­ety,” Zuma said.

Work­ers were in­sourced as the con­tracts of ser­vice providers came to an end. The first group of 369 work­ers joined in Jan­uary and 500 more were ab­sorbed this month. The fi­nal group will be ab­sorbed later this year.

She said Wits was ne­go­ti­at­ing with the re­main­ing ser­vice providers to bring con­tracts to an end sooner, pro­vided that this would not re­sult in ad­di­tional costs.

“The Wits coun­cil placed a cap of R100 mil­lion as the to­tal cost of in­sourc­ing, in­clud­ing all in­ci­den­tal costs. The newly in­sourced work­ers will en­joy full ben­e­fits as Wits per­ma­nent em­ploy­ees. Th­ese in­clude study ben­e­fits for them and their depen­dants, paid ma­ter­nity leave, a prov­i­dent fund, med­i­cal aid and a 13th cheque.”

An­other mem­ber of the work­ers’ sol­i­dar­ity com­mit­tee, Richard Nde­bele, said ne­go­ti­a­tions were un­der way to in­source main­te­nance work­ers as well.


Wits Univer­sity cleaner Deliwe Mzobe has been per­ma­nently em­ployed by the in­sti­tu­tion fol­low­ing a de­ci­sion to in­source ser­vices

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