Wits bus drivers refuse to accept new work schedule which allegedly seeks to do away with paid overtime.
An unlikely crowd of art-goers filled the foyer of the Wits Art Museum (WAM) during the opening of Overtime: representations, values and imagined futures of classical African art on Tuesday, February 21.
They were young, black, hip and carried themselves around the space with absolute abandon as they clinked glasses of wine and shared a cigarette or two outside the venue.
This was not by accident, said the exhibition’s curators, Tetanda Magaisa and Katlego Shoro. In fact, it was the intention of the curators when they invited young artists, thinkers and intellectuals to engage with the African art collection held by the museum.
“The majority of the material in the collection belongs to various language groups across the continent, but what happens is that only a particular kind of people tend to handle that material,” said Magaisa.
This fact led the duo to consider new ways of re-imagining how the collection is seen, talked about and interpreted. Central to their curatorial considerations was the question of access.
“People regard this African art as something that young people do not appreciate,” said Magaisa.
“It’s like ‘oh, ja, they are millennials; they’ve completely and actively removed themselves from these cultures’, which is entirely untrue,” she added.
The exhibition was inspired by the responses and conversations that arose from the From The Heart: Personal Perspectives of the WAM Collection exhibition that took place last June.
“You have these conversations that have happened about accessibility and the kind of voices that can curatorially participate in exhibiting something like classical art,” said Shoro.
“And then you have young black people, young artists and young intellectuals who work at the museum. What are their experiences with the museum besides the job that they do?” she asked.
The answer lay in giving space to people who have different experiences within the museum, with the cultural material, with art, and with imagining how exhibitions can be curated and how a museum can be engaged, Shoro said.
The multiple contributors hold the exhibition together through highlighting the humanness invested in each piece on display.
“The contributors highlight not only their experiences with the museum, with the collection and with art but they also highlight that there’s humanness that should be considered when one looks at art and when one engages with the museum space,” said Shoro.
“How these objects are presented is very important,” she added.
Speaking of the novelty of having young black people at a WAM opening, Magaisa said, “What happened, inevitably, is that having young people participate in the show brought in a young audience and increased the engagement with the exhibition.”
Overtime: representations, values and imagined futures of classical African art will run until April 23.
By Lameez Omarjee and Roxanne Joseph
Wits Theatre staff are complaining about changes in the way they are paid overtime saying “new management” limits their claims.
“Our contract says five days a week, but now we work up to seven days sometimes,” said Sipho*, who works at the theatre.
Sipho said the work hours set in their contracts have been spread out across the week, and not five days. Even though workers come in on the weekends, they do not get paid for overtime because they are still working off the week’s required work hours.
Sipho was told by management they did not qualify for “overtime” pay because the “minister” does not allow it. Sipho also said that “all” the staff were unhappy with conditions.
“They [are] limiting worker hours,” said Olivia Moeti, whose mother works at the Wits Theatre. Workers finish at 3pm on weekdays but come in on Saturday to work the other hours required by their contract, she said.
The theatre employs five cleaners, two of whom are directly employed by Wits.
According to theatre manager Gita Pather, university policy states that anyone who earns under the threshold of R198 000 each year is entitled to overtime and has to work at least 42.5 hours a week. They also cannot work more than 10 hours overtime, because it is against labour law.
“The rules of the industry have been negotiated and are in line with university policy and labour laws,” she said. When she took over as manager, overtime rules were not strictly enforced.
“They were getting paid overtime and taking toil,” she said. “Those who didn’t qualify for overtime were being given it anyway … People had gotten used to being paid huge amounts of overtime.”
But this year, she was given a budget and has to use that amount allocated to overtime across the whole year.
Problems started when new management took over this year, said Moeti. “My mum has been working here for 31 years, this is the first time it’s happening.” The new management insists that these new rules come from Wits University, she said.
“According to management, they say, Wits says it’s [work on Saturdays] is not overtime … They say Wits says they must get a day off instead of paying them,” she said.
However, Pather did not know about this and said the only thing that has changed is the number of hours they are allowed to work. Unless it is festival time, employees do not work on a Sunday and they work off a call sheet.
Wits Services, who manage the cleaning staff, are not aware of any overtime issues. According to director Nicki McGee: “We undertake when appointing service providers via the approved, transparent tender processes, and in consultation with numerous stakeholders at the university.
“The service providers adhere to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act … to ensure that such practices do not occur.”
Additionally, there aren’t different rates for night shift, from 4pm to 8.30pm. No provision for transport is made for staff ending their shifts at night. “It’s not fair to let a woman walk to Bree in the middle of the night,” said Moeti.
Pather said security provides transport to all Wits employees who work late at night. “They take them to the taxi rank.”
Moeti said management was trying to save on expenses throughout the year so that they could get “more money in December”. She said: “They’re trying to save, they’re saving on other people’s expense.”
She also said more people had problems but they were too scared to come forward, out of fear of losing their jobs.
“There is an issue,” Pather said. “But I have a set amount of money.” She said the theatre is “completely compliant”. She said she is aware of the unhappiness, but has a budget and has to manage that.
“I am completely satisfied that we are working within the rules set by the university and labour laws.”
*not his real name
- Wits Vuvuzela. Wits bus drivers driven to exhaustion over long hours. April 25, 2014