Junction workers protest over unequal raise

Workers protested on campus this week and the main dining Hall came to a standstill. Royal Mnandi Junction employees demanded that the insourcing agreement be applied to them as they do the same work as workers based at other dining halls across the university.

DEAL OR NO DEAL: Campus Control ‘s Michael Mahada arrived at the dining hall to receive the worker’s memorandum but workers refused for their representative, Vusi Masondo to hand it over to him, insisting that Royal Mnandi manager Analene Coetzer come and address them directly. Photo: Michelle Gumede

DEAL OR NO DEAL: Campus Control ‘s Michael Mahada arrived at the dining hall to receive the worker’s memorandum but workers refused for their representative, Vusi Masondo to hand it over to him, insisting that Royal Mnandi manager Analene Coetzer come and address them directly. Photo: Michelle Gumede

The dining hall of one of Wits’ most elite residences, Junction, was closed on Tuesday as workers protested against what they say are unfair wages.

About seven Royal Mnandi employees downed their tools in protest.

The workers claim that the insourcing agreement, approved by Wits University Council on January 14, and which proposes R4 500 as a minimum gross salary is not being applied fairly across the board.

“Other workers got their top-up but we have been left in the dark and have not received a top-up,” says Junction Royal Mnandi worker Tabea Chauke.

According Professor Beatrys Lacquet, deputy of knowledge, information and management, Royal Mnandi workers do not qualify under the insourcing agreement.

“A client allowance was approved only for the workers who provide the university with cleaning, dining hall catering, security, inter-campus bus transport, grounds, and waste management services. The allowance does not apply to workers that work for retail and service enterprises that operate on the university campus who are in an arms-length commercial relationship with the university.”

According to the workers, Junction is classified as a retail space and not as a dining hall, and as such the university’s insourcing agreement does not apply to it.

Vusi Masondo, one of the workers who represents the group, believes the classification of Junction employees as retailers does not make sense as they do jobs identical to those done by workers employed at other dining halls at Wits.

Royal Mnandi manager Analene Coetzer declined to speak to Wits Vuvuzela, saying she “is not allowed to comment.”

Nkukuleko Tselane, chairperson of Junction House Committee says that some of the workers are transferred from other dining halls and should therefore be paid the same. “A lot of these workers have been transferred from other dining halls, and now when they get here they are told no, they don’t qualify as dining hall workers so they won’t be insourced,” says Tselane.

Chauke, who stays in Pretoria and has worked in the university’s dining halls for the last four years, says their biggest problem is the unwillingness of Royal Mnandi to engage on the issue.

Masondo and Chauke said the group had attempted to contact Coetzer to address the issue since last week. “When we got here today, she still didn’t want to speak to us. She told us to go speak to the university’s management,” says Chauke.

According to Masondo, Coetzer told the group she had been instructed by the university to not say anything and not to receive their memorandum. The workers were joined in solidarity by workers from the Main Dining Hall and their memorandum was eventually received by Bontle Mogapi, Main Dining Hall Liason Officer flanked by a heavy security presence.

Workers say they will expand their protest to other dining halls if Royal Mnandi refuses them the same salaries as other workers.

“If they don’t give us our top-up, they must return us to our old dining halls where we used to work and they must stay here with their empty kitchen,” Chauke says.

Final-year Mining Engineering student and Junction resident, Thelma Mogorosi says she feels that the workers shouldn’t even need to strike. “Everyone should get paid for the work that they do, I feel like this is unfair,” says Mogorosi.

 

Refurbished dining hall for Res students

The new dining hall can seat up to 450 people. Students can choose to sit at the bar-like area, att ables or on the new benches.

The new dining hall can seat up to 450 people. Students can choose to sit at the bar-like area, at tables or on the new benches. Photo: Provided.

Convocation dining hall is the second dining hall on Wits campus that recently underwent a face-lift.

The dining hall has been refurbished in a more contemporary style with views of the surrounding grounds, and a wider variety of food.

After the final refurbishments have been completed, the renovations will amount to approximately R5,6 million of which half was funded by the South African government and the other half by Wits alumni. Catering provider RoyalMnandi invested a R1 million in equipment for the facility.

Part of having a good education is not only having excellent lecturers, lecturing facilities and good accommodation, but also having access to excellent catering facilities and extramural facilities, said Professor Tawana Kupe, deputy vice-chancellor of finance and operations, during the official opening of the hall.

“You can’t be an excellent student if you are not in good health. And you can’t be in good health if you don’t have a good nutrition. And you can’t have good nutrition in a terrible facility where you are looking at the back of a dilapidated building.”

Kupe said the refurbished dining hall is the kind of standard the university wants, with a nice, open environment, good architecture and good nutrition.

“What you eat and what you see is bon appetit.”

Director of Services, Theresa Main said the aim of the Wits service department is to create an “eat safe campus” and to ensure that a safe eating environment is monitored.

“We are enhancing the dining environment and simultaneously enhancing the food variety.”

The menu items at the dining hall now include pizzas, pastas, stirfry’s and a chicken rotisserie. The hall currently has a seating capacity of 450, but outdoor wooden decks will be built next to the hall to accommodate another 50 seats.

Free wi-fi has been installed and soon, big TV screens for students to watch what they please will follow said Joanne Rowan, deputy director of catering and retail. Students can also take their music and ask for it to be played in the hall.

Rowan said the dining hall has never had a food scare and emphasised that the standards in the dining halls are the same.

Rowan said  she has received positive feedback from the students. “They enjoy the dining hall. They actually spend time sitting here. It’s inviting. Students can socialize with each other.”

Rowan said she hoped that the hall would be used for future student events. “I think it will become a popular place.”

Carl Msiza (BComm Honours in Development Economics), eats at the Convocation dining hall twice a day. Msiza said the new dining hall is “definitely better” than the main dining hall.

“It’s got an ambience.” When asked about the food he said: “ It’s better than most Royal Mnandi dining halls and the staff are extremely friendly.”

Vice chairperson of the David Webster Residence, Innocentia Kgaphola is happy with the change in food variety and said students are more social in the dining hall.

But she said some students believe the standards are not the same and have voiced concerns over the pricing.

“I still believe there’s always room for improvement.”