Olives and Plates workers cry for Wits management intervention. 

Fifteen workers from Olives & Plates on the medical and main campuses marched to Solomon Mahlangu House on Tuesday, August 14, to hand over a memorandum detailing what they said were human rights violations and unfair working conditions.

Wits chief operating officer Fana Sibanyoni and dean of students Jerome September accepted the memorandum.

The workers, who are members of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), called for an inquiry into a list of grievances against management: unfair dismissals, underpayment of staff, having to sign a register to go to the bathroom, and verbal and physical abuse.

There was also a call for Olives & Plates management to stop “tampering” with clock-in systems, and for the university to review its contract with Olives & Plates.

The march followed a report to Nehawu that working conditions at the restaurants had gotten worse since their meeting on April 24. At the meeting were 27 workers, including chefs, food servers, cleaners and cashiers, Olives & Plates management, Nehawu and the Medical School Council (MSC).

This week the workers complained that management had failed to address their grievances, and that some of the workers at the April meeting had subsequently been unfairly dismissed.

Lebone Mohlala, the chairperson of the MSC told Wits Vuvuzela that the workers had approached them after the meeting complaining about the same issues.

“Following the numerous complaints of the ill-treatment of staff working for Olives & Plates, the leadership of the EFF School Council, MSC, Nehawu Wits and the Student Representative Council together with the workers have drafted a memorandum to urge the management of the university to act against the injustices at Olives & Plates,” Mohlala said.

Catering assistant at Medical School, Hilda Mahori, told Wits Vuvuzela that their grievances now included sexual harassment.

“In June, we were busy at the back when the manager, William Watt, called us to the front. It was a group of women only. Because we were still busy and didn’t go there immediately, he said that calling us to the front was like asking for our virginity. When we told the owners about this, they excused him and said he’s new and still learning,” she added.

Watt told Wits Vuvuzela that he could not comment independently as the matter was being investigated by a university team including Sibanyoni.

The workers have given Wits management until August 31 to respond to their memorandum.

FEATURED IMAGE: Olives and Plates workers gather at Solomon Mahlangu to hand over their memorandum to Wits management.  Photo: Onke Ngcuka