Tuks reaches deal with work­ers over in­sourc­ing

Now they de­mand R10 000 a month to keep wolves from door

Pretoria News - - FRONT PAGE - NTANDO MAKHUBU ntando.makhubu@inl.co.za

PHASED-in in­sourc­ing, wage in­creases, med­i­cal ben­e­fits and the chance to study at the univer­sity are among a list of is­sues agreed on by the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria (UP) and work­ers yes­ter­day, brin­ing to an end a two-week strike and clo­sure of the city cam­puses.

An agree­ment on the in­sourc­ing of cam­pus ser­vices was signed yes­ter­day by a com­mis­sion which in­cluded elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives of con­tract work­ers, stu­dents, or­gan­ised labour and univer­sity man­age­ment, which will set into mo­tion the re­sump­tion of nor­mal ac­tiv­i­ties at the univer­sity.

Op­er­a­tions are set to re­sume to­day as the gen­eral work­ers re­turn to work while learn­ing is ex­pected to start on Mon­day.

“We are elated, over the moon in fact,” Joel Tseke, from food ser­vices, said af­ter the agree­ment was signed.

“This is a vic­tory which will im­prove the qual­ity of life for many work­ers,” he said.

That the univer­sity had agreed to in­sourc­ing was one of the most im­por­tant achieve­ments of the protest ac­tion by the work­ers, he said.

Gen­eral work­ers last week shut the univer­sity down as first year stu­dents tried to reg­is­ter and re­turn­ing stu­dents ar­rived on cam­pus.

They ar­gued against the con­tin­ued out­sourc­ing of ser­vices, which they said robbed them of em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits and left them vul­ner­a­ble in the face of job in­se­cu­rity.

A list of de­mands was the sub­ject of tough ne­go­ti­a­tions at the com­mis­sion on out­sourc­ing, and seven were agreed on yes­ter­day morn­ing.

Among th­ese was the start of the ab­sorp­tion of work­ers in Fe­bru­ary, which will see salaries rise to R5 500 for the ab­sorbed work­ers.

The pro­vi­sion of full ben­e­fits for work­ers and an in­crease in salaries across the board would see the R5 500 steadily in­crease to R10 000 when all con­tracts ended in 2018.

“Work­ers earned as lit­tle as R2 000 in some de­part­ments, and were un­able to meet the ba­sic med­i­cal needs which will now be taken care of for free at the cam­pus clinic,” Tseke ex­plained. In ad­di­tion, work­ers who qual­i­fied would be able to study at the univer­sity for free, as would their de­pen­dants who met aca­demic re­quire­ments.

“It was more like a civil war, where we had to force mil­lions out of the pock­ets of some and put it into the pock­ets of those who de­serve it,” said stu­dent rep­re­sen­ta­tive and Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers mem­ber Naledi Chirwa.

The com­mis­sion also agreed to en­sure that no worker was vic­timised or in­tim­i­dated for their role in the protests; that the univer­sity would start ne­go­ti­at­ing for the re­lease of work­ers from con­tracts that bound them to out­sourc­ing; and that they would be­come en­ti­tled to med­i­cal and pen­sion ben­e­fits as soon as they were in­sourced.

UP spokes­woman Anna-Retha Bouwer said: “The mem­bers of the com­mis­sion agreed on is­sues which in­cluded salaries and ben­e­fits, job se­cu­rity, re­turn to work and the in­sourc­ing process.”

She said that a phased ap­proach to the in­sourc­ing of ser­vices linked to the ex­piry of ex­ist­ing con­tracts had been pro­posed, and in the in­terim a top-up of ex­ist­ing salaries would be im­ple­mented.

The work­ers yes­ter­day said they would be cel­e­brat­ing the land­mark achieve­ment, with one worker say­ing: “Once we are ab­sorbed by the univer­sity and be­come part of a big­ger com­mu­nity, we will be free of the abuses our bosses sub­ject us to within the com­pa­nies we work.”

This is a vic­tory which will im­prove the qual­ity of life for many work­ers.

Joel Tseke

‘R10 000 a month with full ben­e­fits” is the ral­ly­ing cry from out­sourced work­ers at univer­si­ties around the cap­i­tal.

Last week, out­sourced work­ers from Unisa, the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria (UP) and Tsh­wane Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy (TUT) downed their tools in a des­per­ate at­tempt to show their dis­sat­is­fac­tion with their work­ing con­di­tions.

Hun­dreds of work­ers, in­clud­ing clean­ers, se­cu­rity guards and gar­den ser­vices per­son­nel de­manded univer­sity man­age­ment to do away with out­sourc­ing and per­ma­nently em­ploy them on con­tracts.

They de­manded a salary of R10 000 and full ben­e­fits, which in­clude med­i­cal aid, hous­ing sub­si­dies and for their chil­dren to ac­cess univer­sity stud­ies for free.

Most of those who spoke to the Pre­to­ria News said they were un­able to af­ford rent.

Many rent back­rooms and shacks which they find af­ford­able.

Their big­gest ex­penses ap­pear to be food, trans­port, and the needs of their chil­dren.

Th­ese obli­ga­tions drive many to bor­row or pur­sue other means of earn­ing ex­tra in­come.

An­thony Nkum­bule, 36, a se­cu­rity guard at UP is one of them. In 2011, he took a job as a se­cu­rity guard at a rep­utable se­cu­rity com­pany which paid R1 900 a month.

“Nor­mally, a se­cu­rity guard would earn R3 500 a month,” Nkum­bule said. “I thought I’d get a bet­ter wage as the years went by,” he said.

Four years later, Nkum­bule is still strug­gling to put his daugh­ters through school and earns a mere R2 200.

“I can barely buy my chil­dren sta­tionery let alone pay for their school fees,” he said.

He lives in Ham­man­skraal and spends R700 a month on trans­port and R800 on gro­ceries. The rest goes to his rent and bills.

De­spite th­ese chal­lenges, many work­ers man­aged to keep their jobs, and strug­gle to pro­vide for their fam­i­lies, and care for their chil­dren.

Cleaner, Nthabiseng Se­bapo, 27, said life was an up­hill bat­tle for her. She said with the cost of liv­ing con­stantly in­creas­ing, it’s dif­fi­cult for her to keep up.

Shongwe lives in a one-roomed house with two of her chil­dren and four grand­chil­dren. “The money that I am earn­ing is too lit­tle. It does not match the work I’m do­ing. The work­load is too much. I’m also not happy with the ben­e­fits. I can’t build my own house, be­cause of the lit­tle money I get. I’ve got kids and I don’t have a hus­band.”

Th­ese work­ers who earn an av­er­age of R3 000 a month em­ploy a com­bi­na­tion of sur­vival tac­tics to get by.

Th­ese in­clude ex­tra work, help from rel­a­tives and loans from loan sharks.

Pre­cious Mathe­bula, a res­i­dent of Mamelodi who works as a cleaner, has two other jobs. She does laun­dry and iron­ing in an at­tempt to keep her lights on and feed her fam­ily.

Mathe­bula, who is cur­rently em­ployed by Ser­vest, a clean­ing com­pany, said she could barely get through the month with the R2 500 a month she earns. Sur­vival, she said, was pos­si­ble only by liv­ing with rel­a­tives and re­ly­ing on fi­nan­cial help from her boyfriend.

Out­sourced work­ers’ leader, Mametlwe Se­bei, said min­i­mum-wage jobs were meant to be the first step on a ca­reer lad­der, a chance for en­try-level work­ers to prove them­selves be­fore earn­ing a pro­mo­tion or mov­ing on to bet­ter-pay­ing jobs.

“But a grow­ing num­ber of work­ers are get­ting stuck on that first step for years, if they ever move up at all,” he said.

The money that I am earn­ing is too lit­tle. I can’t

build my own house, be­cause of the lit­tle money I get. I’ve got kids and I don’t

have a hus­band.”

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