Low night shift allowances for Campus Control are allegedly leading to increased absenteeism among security guards—and putting students in danger.
Security guards are paid a monthly night shift allowance of R203.94.
They work seven night shifts a month, each of which are 12 hours long. This means they are paid about R29 per night shift in addition to their basic salary.
Chairperson of the Wits branch of the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) Nnwamato Sadiki said the low allowance and long hours have started a trend of absenteeism amongst security guards working the night shift.
“Each and every shift you cannot find people that are on shift, some of them are reporting they are sick and some of them are reporting that they are not interested in coming due to various reasons,” said Sadiki.
Campus Control security guards are meant to be posted in the Braamfontein area for the protection of students who live in the area.
Campus Control liaison manager Lucky Khumela said security guards did take off work for sick leave or other reasons. He could not say whether there was increased absenteeism due to unhappiness with the night shift allowance.
“I cannot say no or it’s not a problem that has been identified yet because you find that people get sick or they need to get off work,” Khumela said.
“I have never really heard of any issue that workers are reluctant to come to work because of low pay. Wits University is competitive when it comes to campus security companies especially in comparison to other universities,” he said.
However, Wits Vuvuzela reporters who live in the area have noticed a lack of visible Campus Control security guards. Many students also said they felt unsafe in the area, especially when they stay late at school to complete their assignments and study for exams.
Matsepo Khumalo, 1st year BA in Dramatic Arts, said she feels unsafe in Braamfontein without security guards.
“I witnessed a mugging outside Bridgeview and that is relatively close to campus. It is really scary to think that you can be mugged near campus … It would be nice to just walk freely,” Khumalo said.
Khumalo told Wits Vuvuzela that while Campus Control was short-staffed, shifts were adequately staffed even after security guards call in sick.
“Although we are we are very short-staffed we are fortunate that we have security officers who stay around Braamfontein and some of them stay on campus. Whenever someone books off sick another security guard will come to replace him,” Khumela said.
Sadiki said the safety of students could be comprised because security guards are not motivated to work.
“We can’t say we need to compromise the lives of the students but if we are not getting enough of what we deserve and of what we have worked for, it can bring the morale down,” Sadiki said.
Deputy chairperson of Wits Nehawu Billy Cebekhulu said the disputes over the night shift allowance has been going on since 2009.
According to a Wits human resources memorandum sent to Nehawu in March of this year, management acknowledged that the night shift allowance had not increased for six years to 2008 from 2002. It said the night allowance “remained constant for reasons of security industry compliance.”
However, management said that while the allowance was fixed, the total pay package for security guards increased “without fail” every year.
Khumela denied that Campus Control security guards were underpaid.
“Wits University pay their security well and if that was not the case there would be no security guards on campus,” said Khumela.
But Cebekhulu told Wits Vuvuzela that Wits security guards were receiving lower night allowances when compared to the University of Johannesburg.
Sadiki said the security guards believe they are also receiving lower pay packages when compared to other service staff at Wits. He feels Campus Control are not being treated equally to the people they are protecting.
“I am disappointed in Wits because I thought it was an institution with a good reputation since it produced intellectual students.
“They are getting exposure from green pastures everywhere but they forget the environment of working classes, which is the security officers on campus, is deteriorating,” Sadiki said.
Nehawu said they were planning on taking action with regards to the night shift allowances to upper management at Wits.