February, 2016

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Repression and mob-violence at UFS

University workers and students continued their protests at the University of the Free State (UFS) today. They were demanding the implementation of last year’s agreement to end outsourcing and demanding the reinstatement of Trevor Shaku, a leader of #OutsourcingMustFall and the Socialist Youth Movement (the youth wing of the Workers and Socialist Party), who was dismissed from his post as a research assistant at the university for his role in the campaign.

Across the country, as protests of workers and students continue across the higher education sector, it is clear that management, no doubt with the approval of the ANC government, are pursuing a strategy of repression. It is clear that the UFS management, in collusion with the police, are trying to behead the campaign at UFS and intimidate workers and students alike. Comrade Trevor has clearly been singled out for victimisation. This a gross trampling of the right to organise and to protest shared by every individual. Escalating their strategy today, Comrade Trevor, along with 34 other students, were arrested by police, in a maelstrom of rubber bullets. At the time of writing these students are still in police cells. This comes days after 27 students were arrested at the University of Pretoria.

Worker attackedProving that this is indeed a conscious strategy, UFS management has offered to support the release of the arrested students on condition that all protests end and workers return to their posts. This calculated bribery has been rejected by students and workers.

But even this severe state repression was not enough for UFS management. Later in the day a group of students and workers were attacked by white students and their fathers as they passed a rugby match being held on campus. A reactionary white mob, being used to damage the struggles of the working class, was reminiscent of the worse moments of racial polarisation in the struggle against apartheid. Tragically, many of these whites would have been acting against their own class interests in this mindless act. At UFS and at UP, it was the victims of such mob violence that were arrested, not the perpetrators indicating the right-wing agenda shared with the police.

 

We call for cross class solidarity and organised self-defence against any forces being 12742301_1726206930942803_7578538724843905289_nused to break the struggles of the working class. One of the best features of the #FeesMustFall movement, that inflicted a humiliating defeat on the ANC government over the proposed 2016 fee hikes, was the unity of black and white. Struggle and solidarity overcame racial divisions. We call on white students to mobilise alongside their black brothers and sisters to protest against reactionary attempts to divert this class struggle into a racial conflict. We call on the youth of the townships and the working class of Bloemfontein to come to the defence of the students and campus workers.

Trevor in vanWorkers and students at UFS will not be diverted from their goals by the cowardly actions of UFS management, the police and the reactionary elements in the white community. The struggle continues!

Fighting outsourcing in Western Cape

Michael Helu

Workers & Socialist Party, Western Cape

After a pause over the December holiday, in the new year the struggle of #OutsouringMustFall resumed at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). Workers are reminding the university management that they still stand resolute in their demand to be insourced as university employees. For example, workers demanded that J&M cleaning, whose contract was coming to an end on the end of January 2016, not be renewed and instead workers be insourced.

All the outsourced workers were prepared to take up the struggle at CPUT however the ANC-aligned NEHAWU union discouraged security and garden service workers from taking part in the strike. The result was management ignoring the workers’ protest as it was only the cleaning workers who participated. NEHAWU then proposed that workers should go back to work and embark on a go slow!

IMG-20160208-WA0001The struggle at University of the Western Cape (UWC) resumed with workers and students marching to remind UWC management of their demands, handing over and memorandum on Monday, 08 February 2016. Workers gave management until Wednesday, 10 February 2016 to respond. They did not so workers marched again, this time to the admin building of the university demanding a response. Management said they would not give their response to the memorandum to student leaders but only “Michael Helu”!

The management response indicates that the university understands the plight of workers. They will give workers a R2000.00 allowance as a top-up to their wages and give the education rebate which is enjoyed by all university employees. However what management does not explain about the education rebate is that workers will be disqualified on the basis that they do not academically qualify to study at the university as some of them do not even have matric. Further they claim that they have established a task team to look at the feasibility of insourcing, but none of the people who are in the task team have a mandate from the workers nor from the #OutsourcingMustFall of #FeesMustFall movement.

The workers independent committee will meet on Monday, 15 February 2016 to discuss their response. Amongst other things this will include a response to the threats made by the outsourced management against workers. For example Metro Cleaning has threatened workers with disciplinary action should they part take on any protest action. Pegasus Landscaping had called a meeting with workers during the workers lunch break to threaten them that should they participate in protest action they could cancel their service level agreement with the university causing them to be without work and not earn any income, or they will take disciplinary action and some will lose their jobs and their families will go hungry.

In Stellenbosch University (Ustell) #OutsouringMustFall, NEHAWU, and the student’s Open Stellenbosch and #FeesMustFall movement entered into an agreement which was signed on the 07 December 2015. The university agreed to a task team to discuss insourcing and the following:

  • Moratorium on all new forms outsourcing
  • Salary scale the university offered to ensure that all outsourced employees should be earning R5,000 with effect from 01 March 2016
  • Payment of a once off amount of R2,000 to all outsourced employees in December 2015

The university also committed to engage the service providers to discuss allegations of victimization against workers who participated in a protest action. But they have failed as more than 140 workers were dismissed without any procedure being followed which it infringes with these employee’s rights and dignity. The university has failed to leave to its undertaking as per the agreement that workers be treated with dignity and subjected to fair labour practices. G4S workers were not subjected to any fair disciplinary procedure and dismissed without being given an opportunity to state their case. Further the company acted inconsistently compared to the UCT workers were they have not taken any disciplinary action at all. Langverwacht Landscaping also selectively dismissed some of the employees and did not give any special reason as to why they have not dismissed the others.

Workers have demanded that the university ensure that these service providers – G4S and Langverwacht Landscaping – who have dismissed workers for participating in the protest action reinstate these workers by 17 February 2016 or further protest action will disrupt the operations of the university.

Workers in all these three institutions are still standing resolute on their demand for ending outsourcing and for the minimum wage of R10,000.

Victory for #OutsourcingMustFall at TUT

Today, Thursday 11 February, TUT management signed an agreement with #OutsourcingMustFall bringing an end to the TUT workers’ heroic month long strike. Workers will assemble on Monday morning and triumphantly march back to work. This victory follows on the heels of the #OutsourcingMustFall strikes that defeated outsourcing and won wage rises of up to 300% at the University of Pretoria, the University of South Africa and Medunsa.

TUT Management has agreed to phase out outsourcing over the next two years increasing the minimum wage for newly insourced workers by 100% to R5,000. Whilst this falls short of the R10,000 minimum wage demanded by workers, TUT management has agreed to continue discussions about a timetable for raising the minimum wage to R10,000 by 2019.

Other key concessions include agreement that there will be no victimisation of workers who took part in this unprotected strike, that the interdict banning protests on and around campus will not be enforced and that criminal charges against workers taking part in protests will be dropped.

But this agreement was hard fought by workers. For much of the past month TUT management refused to even recognise the workers’ committees and the #OutsourcingMustFall campaign. They attempted to impose an agreement with the ANC-aligned NEHAWU union which workers had never even belonged to. Not only had NEHAWU refused to organise outsourced workers for years, they organised gangs of thugs to try and break the #OutsourcingMustFall strike. But somehow, in a complete trampling of the basic democratic right to organise, TUT management believed this degenerate puppet of the tenderpreneurs was entitled to speak for workers!

Until today, even the R5,000 minimum wage offer that had been on the table was placed there only half-heartedly with management linking it to “sustainability” and “affordability”. These clauses have now been scrapped and the workers’ elected representatives officially recognised even sitting on the new Task Team overseeing the end of outsourcing at TUT. Workers stood united and determined in the face of management games and won.

Strikes of outsourced workers organised by #OutsourcingMustFall continue at Tshwane North College, Tshwane South College and Tshwane Municipality. Protest action targeting these institutions will continue with workers assembling at Church Square from 7am tomorrow, Friday 12 February. Before they return to work, the TUT workers have vowed to support their comrades at other institutions in another day of protest.