Insourcing high turns sour

The insourcing of about 1530 workers has meant improved salaries and benefits for the new Wits employees but two women say they have been left high and dry, and are yet to enjoy these benefits.

The insourcing celebrations remain on hold for Memory Mabizela, 47, and Elizabeth Labase, 49, who work as hygiene operators for Wits contractor, Ukweza, and who have been excluded from the insourcing process. The two women have worked at Wits for the last 17 years.


Taking a stand: Ukweza staff, Elizabeth Labase and Memory Mabizela are sad that they are not part of Wits’ insourcing plan.                                                                                                           Photo: Olwethu Boso

Last year the Wits human resources (HR) office held a meeting with all Ukweza staff to notify them that they would all be insourced. At the beginning of this year when a number of former outsourced workers went to sign their contracts with the university, the two women say they were not given contracts.

Mabizela and Labase approached their Ukweza boss, Corné van Rooyen, about the matter.

Speaking in seSotho, they told Wits Vuvuzela they had asked what was going to happen to them. They were told the university did not have the necessary hygiene certificate registered in order to bring them on board.

Mabizela said that this was strange because the university was able to use Ukweza services even though Ukweza apparently does not have a registered hygiene certificate themselves, but, has been rendering the service to Wits nonetheless.

Van Rooyen told Wits Vuvuzela that he did not wish to comment about the matter and instead referred us to the university’s HR department.

The two women then approached Wits HR director Dr Kgomotso Kasankola. They say Kasankola told them that HR was under the impression that they used machinery and chemicals to do their work and therefore they could not be insourced because their company could not provide the appropriate machines and chemicals to Wits.

According to Labase, the university has insourced the cleaning staff from Ukweza who work with chemicals to clean toilets and office spaces on a daily basis, yet as hygiene operators, they only use deo-block (air fresheners) and plastics to collect sanitary garbage.

The women say they returned to Van Rooyen to clarify the issues raised in their meeting with Wits HR. He apparently told them they were not going to be insourced but he would see if their pay could stay the same while they worked for Ukweza until he leaves and finishes his term next year.

“We are clearly not important at Wits. The work we do doesn’t seem to be important to them,” said Labase.

Wits spokesperson Buhle Zuma said, “Based on the specialised function of the work rendered, an independent legal opinion has been sought on this matter. A decision will be made once the legal opinion is received.”

UPDATED: Wits food vendor workers protest

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.

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.