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.

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