Struggle against outsourcing at CUT
by Itumeleng Lecheko
Workers and Socialist Party & Socialist Youth Movement, Bloemfontein
As university workers across the country wage a struggle against labour broking and outsourcing, workers in the Central University of Technology (CUT) in Bloemfontein took their struggle to the streets on 7 March 2016 demanding the same as all #OutsourcingMustFall campaigns: to be insourced, a minimum salary of R10,000 and to receive standard benefits of permanent university staff.
This day was a victory to many workers who never thought they would see it. The current SRC led by the ANC-aligned SASCO had taken the names and payslips of these workers last year with a promise that they would raise the matter of insourcing with management. They promised that when students protested against financial exclusion, the struggles would be united as one.
When #OutsourcingMustFall and WASP helped to organise these workers there was a feeling of relief and the workers’ determination to struggle was rejuvenated. However, management threw #OMF and WASP activist Itumeleng Lecheko off the campus and the SRC intervened to promise workers that they would pursue the matter. On 25 February 2016, it came out in a meeting between the SRC and management that the SRC had postponed the matter to a later date despite the warning from #OMF and WASP that the workers were raising their issue independently and it should not just be referred to the students.
This month workers at CUT finally took it upon themselves to unite and pave the way to break the exploitative chains that bind them. Amongst other complaints workers have with labour brokers is their total disregard for workers’ human dignity and fair labour practices. “We stand 12 hours without a chair or roof in the blistering sun and storms”, said Mkhomaza, a security officer and shopsteward. “We cannot even answer the phone. You answer, you’re dismissed on the spot without even basic procedure for effecting fair dismissal.” Freda, a cleaner at CUT also confirmed the harsh conditions of work at the CUT. “We only have two cleaners for a large building and lecturers also send us on errands. When you don’t finish your job you’re charged. We really work like slaves here.”
On Monday, 07 March, it became apparent that workers were not inventing a fairy tale. Immediately after the peaceful handing over of the memorandum of demands, a security company linked to the ANC, Mafoko Security Patrols, fired all 41 employees on the spot without following basic procedure. #OMF wrote a letter to Mafoko management stating that they were trampling on the rights of workers, and that in fact, they were displaying the very same cruelty as CUT management. #OMF pointed out that Mafoko should at least have handed notice of disciplinary hearing instead of instant dismissals. This incident displayed a clear collaboration between management and the labour broking company to maintain the system of exploitation.
The Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the CUT, Thandwa Mthembu, responded by saying that from 2012 to 2016, the CUT had insourced 31 workers and that the CUT would not risk straining its financial resources by insourcing more – which is a blatant position to protect the interests of labour broking companies. The management is now no longer responding to letters from the workers leaving no option but that of direct confrontation. Workers at the CUT have vowed to undertake a strike as soon as possible to get the management’s attention, to demand the immediate reinstatement of the security officers and a meeting between the members of the #OutsourcingMustFall and management to discuss the terms of ending outsourcing at CUT.