Workers protested on campus this week and the main dining Hall came to a standstill. Royal Mnandi Junction employees demanded that the insourcing agreement be applied to them as they do the same work as workers based at other dining halls across the university.
The dining hall of one of Wits’ most elite residences, Junction, was closed on Tuesday as workers protested against what they say are unfair wages.
About seven Royal Mnandi employees downed their tools in protest.
The workers claim that the insourcing agreement, approved by Wits University Council on January 14, and which proposes R4 500 as a minimum gross salary is not being applied fairly across the board.
“Other workers got their top-up but we have been left in the dark and have not received a top-up,” says Junction Royal Mnandi worker Tabea Chauke.
According Professor Beatrys Lacquet, deputy of knowledge, information and management, Royal Mnandi workers do not qualify under the insourcing agreement.
“A client allowance was approved only for the workers who provide the university with cleaning, dining hall catering, security, inter-campus bus transport, grounds, and waste management services. The allowance does not apply to workers that work for retail and service enterprises that operate on the university campus who are in an arms-length commercial relationship with the university.”
According to the workers, Junction is classified as a retail space and not as a dining hall, and as such the university’s insourcing agreement does not apply to it.
Vusi Masondo, one of the workers who represents the group, believes the classification of Junction employees as retailers does not make sense as they do jobs identical to those done by workers employed at other dining halls at Wits.
Royal Mnandi manager Analene Coetzer declined to speak to Wits Vuvuzela, saying she “is not allowed to comment.”
Nkukuleko Tselane, chairperson of Junction House Committee says that some of the workers are transferred from other dining halls and should therefore be paid the same. “A lot of these workers have been transferred from other dining halls, and now when they get here they are told no, they don’t qualify as dining hall workers so they won’t be insourced,” says Tselane.
Chauke, who stays in Pretoria and has worked in the university’s dining halls for the last four years, says their biggest problem is the unwillingness of Royal Mnandi to engage on the issue.
Masondo and Chauke said the group had attempted to contact Coetzer to address the issue since last week. “When we got here today, she still didn’t want to speak to us. She told us to go speak to the university’s management,” says Chauke.
According to Masondo, Coetzer told the group she had been instructed by the university to not say anything and not to receive their memorandum. The workers were joined in solidarity by workers from the Main Dining Hall and their memorandum was eventually received by Bontle Mogapi, Main Dining Hall Liason Officer flanked by a heavy security presence.
Workers say they will expand their protest to other dining halls if Royal Mnandi refuses them the same salaries as other workers.
“If they don’t give us our top-up, they must return us to our old dining halls where we used to work and they must stay here with their empty kitchen,” Chauke says.
Final-year Mining Engineering student and Junction resident, Thelma Mogorosi says she feels that the workers shouldn’t even need to strike. “Everyone should get paid for the work that they do, I feel like this is unfair,” says Mogorosi.