Wits University has reached an agreement with protesters, including Wits Workers Solidarity and MJL Electrical workers, before a court interdict was issued to have them forcibly removed from the offices of the Wits Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib.
Protesters occupying the offices next to vice chancellor, Prof Adam Habib have reached an agreement with Wits University after previously being denied their demands that outsourced MJL workers be absorbed by another contractor.
The MJL electrical workers were left jobless after the private company was closed, following allegations that the workers were not paid by the company. According to a university statement the MJL workers were subsequently paid by Wits out of the monies owed to MJL Electrical.
The university previously made a statement where it acknowledged that the MJL workers were treated unfairly by the contractor.
“MJL workers have been treated badly by their boss. Wits does sympathize. But we cannot employ the workers,” the university said in an earlier statement.
According to the university spokesperson, Shirona Patel, Habib said during the protest that Wits could not absorb the MJL workers into the university.
The statement also added that Wits management would not meet with the student protestors, “Wits Management is open to meeting directly with the workers themselves or their recognised unions but the university will not negotiate with the Wits EFF, student groups or other informal bodies on this matter.”
However the protesters have reached an agreement with deputy vice-chancellor Prof Tawana Kupe, today and voluntarily left the premises just before lunch. This comes after the university began proceedings to obtain a court interdict to have the students from Wits Workers Solidarity Committee and MJL workers removed from the premises, which they have been occupying since Wednesday.
Koketso Toho, a protestor and member of Wits Workers Solidarity, said “We got the university to take responsibility to attend and negotiate with current vendors which enjoy the same status as MJL to employ the current number of workers.”
“They will try to communicate with us and we will take it from there what action we will take.”
In the university’s statement responding to the demand to employ the workers, it explained the negative affect insourcing, hiring the workers directly by Wits, would have on the university by setting a precedent, ” Those who advocate insourcing do not realize that it would require an extra 15% increase in student fees otherwise Wits quality will decline … This would destroy Wits. Where would future students go?”
Toho however believes the university will try to improve the number of outsourced vendors it uses, “We will try and negotiate for the general outsourcing to stop which the university has committed itself to try and stop … even though it might be a lengthy process.”
He added, “They [Wits University] will try to communicate with us and we will take it from there what action we will take.”
Students and dismissed electrical workers have occupied the offices of the Wits vice chancellor, Professor Adam Habib, since yesterday, The university has indicated that it will be seeking a court interdict to have the protesters removed.
LOCKED OUT: Two students were locked out of Professor Adam Habib’s offices yesterday while protesters occupied the space demanding that the dismissed MJL electrical workers be absorbed into a new company now contracted by Wits. Photo: Tanisha Heiberg
Wits University says it will seek a court order to remove the protesters currently occupying the office of the vice chancellor, Professor Adam Habib. Around 20 protesters occupied the office on the 11th floor of Senate House on East Campus, around lunch time yesterday, and were given the option to move to another site by 6pm last night. After failing to move, the university declared it’s intention, via a tweet, to seek legal recourse.
11. @WitsUniversity will now seek a court interdict to remove them. If they still refuse, they will be in violation of the law and our rules
The protesters, including members of Wits Workers’ Solidarity, and MJL electrical workers are apparently still in the office this morning which has been closed by Campus Control.
The protest comes after a protracted dispute with Wits management over the fate of the electrical workers who were left jobless after the university ended its contract with their company, MJL Electrical. Last month, the group sent a letter to the vice chancellor blaming the university for not doing enough to help them. The workers have been in a salary dispute with the owner of the company, George Cresswold since early this year.
Yesterday, two students attempting to join the protest were locked out of the offices and staged their own sit-in in the lobby. A student and member of Wits Workers’ Solidarity, Mpho Massuku said, “They are not allowing us to come inside … Habib only allowed five people to go in and we are not part of them”.
Deputy Vice Chancellor (Advancement and Transformation), Professor Tawana Kupe and members of the Academic Freedom Committee were seen inside the offices.
Professor Beatrys Lacquet, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Information, Knowledge and Infrastructure Management), said, “The university has to continue with business as usual and we are dealing with the matter in due process”.
WORKERS AID: MJL Electrical workers outside the Great Hall before they got in to the Vice Chancellor’s Town Hall meeting earlier this year. Photo: Sibongile Machika
Axed SRC president Mcebo Dlamini and Wits workers are planning a protest at the Great Hall today in solidarity with fellow outsourced workers.
The protest action will happen throughout lunch hour, but protestors say they will continue the strike for as long as it takes to get a positive response from management.
“I hope they will disturb the exams so that the university can take them seriously,” Dlamini said.
Wits university management has been in disputes over outsourced workers formerly employed by Wits contractor MJL Electrical. MJL workers have made several allegations against the company, including non-payment of salaries as well as tax fraud.
Dlamini said that the companies that the university enters into business exploit black workers. “The university is failing to protect those workers,” said Dlamini.
Richard Ndebele, of MJL Electrical, said the workers have met with Wits management several times yet no resolution has been found.
“We want Wits to consider a company that can absorb us, we’ve even suggested the names of companies that can do that but they don’t want to instead they (Wits) say it’s not their responsibility to do something for us,” said Ndebele.
Prof Beatrys Lacquet, the deputy vice chancellor of infrastructure and operations at Wits, has said that the university has paid what it owes MJL Electrical and the responsibility for the workers is on the company, not the university.
MJL workers are not the only outsourced workers to be unhappy with their lot at Wits. These workers, including those from Servest andUkweza, said they took a resolution on Friday that they will would protest in solidarity of MJL workers.
Ukweza worker, Tanya Khumalo* said she is supporting the strike because when workers from Ukweza were fired, workers employed by other outsourcing companies rallied in support of their reinstatement.
“Le rona tlamayile re ba thuse, batlo thola mosebetsi eming je ka rona bari thusitse, [We have an obligation to help them get other jobs, just like we were helped],” said Khumalo.
Acclaimed South African author and Wits English professor, Ivan Vladislavić, launched his new book at Wits University last week.
DETECTIVE: Acclaimed South African author, Ivan Vladislavić launched his new book 101 Detectives at Wits on Thursday, as part of Africa Week. Photo: Samantha Camara
101 Detectives is a collection of fictional short stories that follow the adventures of different detectives across Johannesburg, Mauritius, the American West and Germany. The book is the latest offering from Wits English professor and celebrated author Ivan Vladislavić, and was launched at Wits University last Thursday.
Speaking at the launch hosted by the Wits School of Language, Literature and Media (SLLM), Vladislavić said the collection is an extension of his previous work The Loss Library.
Kirby Mania, who completed her doctorate on Vladislavićs’ works, described the collection as an “act of detection” as the reader is invited to not only journey with the characters but also decipher clues and patterns which are hidden in the stories themselves.
Mania suggested that the collection is an “anti-detective” story which follows “no grand system that can be relied on to restore order”.
The book was published by Umuzi, a local branch of Penguin Random House and is on sale at leading bookstores.
Listen to Vladislavić read from the title story of the collection (click below):