Window cleaners say they should have been insourced. 

FIFTEEN window cleaners have been left with uncertain job security after their employer’s contract with Wits came to an end in July.

Ukweza is a cleaning service provider and has had the window-cleaning contract with Wits for five years.

The workers told Wits Vuvuzela that their job insecurity was a result of them not being insourced with other workers by the university.

The insourcing process started in January 2017, and saw almost 1 530 outsourced workers being insourced by the university. As far as the window cleaners are concerned, they should have been included.

Four of the window cleaners are members of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), and work on main campus. The rest work at the Wits Business School and the Education campus.

A high-rise worker from main campus, Jacob Hlatshwayo, told Wits Vuvuzela that they were still working at Wits but were not sure who they were currently employed by. The 33-year old said that the workers were still receiving their salaries from Ukweza with a top up from the university.

Hlatshwayo added that he and three other workers had approached the university in April 2017 and spoke to senior director of human resources Kgomotso Kasankole about being insourced.

“We approached him asking why we weren’t insourced. We were told that we are “high risk” because we hang in the air and we’re too expensive. Kasankole said that the university could not exceed its budget because of that,” Hlatshwayo said.

“We went to Nehawu last year after seeing Kasankole and asked them to fight for us to be insourced. We were told that the matter is with Fana Sibanyoni (Wits chief operations officer). We were told by the union that some workers took the matter to another union, and because of this the matter was being delayed,” the window cleaner added.

Hlatshwayo said that the four workers had also gone to the Student’s Representative Council (SRC) to intervene and while the SRC did write a letter to Sibanyoni, the workers had not received a response.

Branch secretary-general of Nehawu, Tumisho Madishaba, told Wits Vuvuzela that Nehawu had received a letter from Sibanyoni in 2017 about the workers being insourced.

“The university said that they could not afford to insource the high-rise workers (window cleaners), because they will need more specialist equipment and qualified human resources which the university has not budgeted for,” Madishaba said.

He added that the union had hoped that the university would insource the workers when the contract ended in July, but this had not happened yet.

Kasonkole told Wits Vuvuzela that he could not answer the questions that were posed to him as they required information surrounding decisions that had been made by Council and referred Wits Vuvuzela to Nicole de Andrade, the finance manager of Wits Services.

De Andrade forwarded Wits Vuvuzela’s questions to acting operations manager for Cleaning and director of services, Raymond Khoza. Wits Vuvuzela had not received a response at the time of publication.

FEATURED IMAGE: The university told the window cleaners their work was “high risk”. Photo: Onke Ngcuka