Tuks reaches deal with workers over insourcing
Now they demand R10 000 a month to keep wolves from door
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.
‘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.”