Outsourced but not outsmarted

Wits cleaners expressed their anger at a hundreds-strong gathering on campus this week, at what they see as devious outsourcing negotiations by the university.

Workers gathered outside the South West Engineering Building, chanting and singing against what they claim is the university’s sneaky process of outsourcing campus cleaning operations.

The university’s existing contracts with Supercare and Carovone cleaning services will come to an end in June. According to a conflict management report by Tokiso, a company contracted by the university after the cleaners claimed unfair treatment, the university had promised Supercare and Carovone cleaners they would all retain their jobs.

But the Wits Workers’ Solidarity Committee (WSC) says workers have been told they will be interviewed for the jobs – jobs they already have.

OUTWIT, OUTSMART, OUTSOURCE: Wits cleaning staff gathered outside the South West Engineering Building on Tuesday to protest against the university's sneaky outsourcing tactics.

OUTWIT, OUTSMART, OUTSOURCE: Wits cleaning staff gathered outside the South West Engineering Building on Tuesday to protest against the university’s sneaky outsourcing tactics.

The university contracted a new company, Impact Cleaning Services, to service main campus. And, according to cleaners approached by Wits Vuvuzela, the university’s recent tactics have not done much to improve worker confidence in Wits management.

Deputy Director of Operations at Wits Services, Nicki McGee, said: “WSC have handed a petition to university management yesterday. Management are in the process of responding and have until Thursday t0 do so.” The university’s response had not yet been released by the time Wits Vuvuzela went to press.

A Carovone cleaner at Sunnyside residence, who asked not to be named, said their bosses only called them on Tuesday telling them to take their IDs to work with them on Wednesday as they would be interviewed for the new contractor.

At the meeting, Supercare cleaner, Deliwe Mzobe, said: “Hundreds of workers on our campus, some of whom have worked here for two decades, do not know whether they will be employed at the university, in fact whether they will be employed at all, in exactly 33 days time.”

Mzobe presented their petition of demands to Deputy Vice Chancellor (Finance and Operations) Professor Tawana Kupe, after the incoming Vice Chancellor Professor Adam Habib left without speaking.

DIE POPPE SAL DANS: Wits cleaners demand the university’s assurance that their jobs will remain safe.

DIE POPPE SAL DANS: Wits cleaners demand the university’s assurance that their jobs will remain safe.

The crowd raised their fists and yelled “Buwa”, as PhD student and member of the WSC, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, addressed them. He expressed disappointment at Habib’s failure to speak. “This is not the newsroom or the SABC where he talks a lot making political analyses. He must come here on the floor and explain why this university is so bad.”

Question marks on keeping campus clean

MANY areas on campus, especially residences, are filthy as Wits cleaners continue striking for an increase in wages.

Third year law student, Kagiso Manamela, believes that “in difficult times [such as the current workers’ strike] it is the duty of the SRC and campus societies to push everyone to clean after themselves and ensure that our campus is well maintained”.

Wits has more than 70 registered clubs and societies and Manamela says that if they work together then “a clean campus conducive for studying can be achieved”.

SRC president Morris Masutha said the SRC supports the cleaners’ strike and therefore making efforts with clubs and societies to keep Wits clean will “sabotage” the cleaners’ cause.

“We will remain anti-hygiene until the cleaners’ demands are met. The biggest demand we have is that Wits must own its own cleaning staff instead of it being outsourced,” Masutha said.

Clubs and societies at Wits engage in different activities such as sports, religion, entertainment and politics. This then raises the concern of whether it is in the interest of these clubs and societies to diverge from their daily scope and deal with alternative issues such as efforts to clean Wits campus.

Demography and population studies honours student, Richard Machava, says that “societies should work together to eliminate the problem instead of only focusing on their own issues because the current strike affects us all as Wits students regardless of which society we belong to”.

Matome Rampedi, chairperson of Campus Outreach, an organisation dealing with biblical ministry, says the difficulty that plagues students is the “naivety that if campus is dirty, it is somebody else’s duty to deal with it” which leaves people reluctant to make efforts to maintain cleanliness.

Regarding clubs and societies working together to initiate efforts to clean Wits campus, Rampedi said: “There is a role to be played by each of us, but as a society getting involved in something which is not directly linked with the work you do, can be time consuming and a huge challenge.”