Workers and students protesting against alleged exploitation by franchise owners

STRIKE: Workers and students protesting against alleged exploitation by franchise owners                                                                                                                                                                            Photo: Nasya Smith

UPDATED: Protesting workers from food franchises at Wits have met with their bosses to give their demands and will go back to work as they await a response next week.

“We have pitched our needs, demands and grievances to our bosses and we are waiting for responses and resolutions by next week Thursday,” said Thandiswa Yaphi, a protest leader and worker at Sizzlers.

Nicholas Matthes, a member of Wits Services, had helped facilitate Friday afternoon’s meeting and said the issues were sensitive with “many contributing factors.”


By Nasya Smith, Aarti Bhana and Leanne Cumming

Workers from food franchises on campus launched a lunchtime protest in the Matrix on Friday complaining that their working conditions are exploitative.

The singing and dancing workers were soon joined by some students during the protest as they forced the closure of Matrix shops.

Thandiswa Yaphi, who works at Sizzlers and is one of the protest leaders, said that some of the workers have been employed by food franchises on campus for over fifteen years but still do not have a contract. Some of the workers that do have contracts, allegedly have to adhere to strict bathroom times and still receive a wage below the legal minimum wage.

Yaphi said that the Labour department is not assisting them in dealing with their problems.

The protesting workers are also unhappy that they were not included in an insourcing agreement with Wits workers that topped-up salaries to a minimum of R4,500.

Akies Berdanis, owner of Zesty Lemonz, said that all food franchises on campus operate independently from the university and his employee’s pay is the same as in any other Zesty Lemonz franchise. Berdanis admitted that not all franchises on campus were aligned with regulations of the Bargaining Council, an association of staff and employers, last year but apparently most have “come to the party” since then.

When asked about the bathroom regulations, Berdanis said that the franchises merely ask if employees could avoid going to the bathroom during busy hours, but says “we are human, if you have to go you have to go”.

The protests are continuing and the workers are currently having a meeting to discuss the way forward.