Workers at the Junction convenient store, e-Pitstop, feel like they have been kept in the dark about their possible retrenchment
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.
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.
Wits EFF forced their way into a Wits University dining hall yesterday evening in order to take food for needy students.
by Boipelo Boikhutso and Michelle Gumede
Some members of the Wits Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) stormed their way into the Wits Main dining hall on Thursday evening, demanding food for hungry students.
“That food needs to be given to students not thrown away or kept by Royal Mnandi on top of the profit they are making,” said Mbe Mbele, coordinator of the WitsEFF. Royal Mnandi is one of the catering services on campus.
According to the organisation, many students have been contacting them, asking for help with regards to food and accommodation. “Students are hungry,” they chanted.
The party members, wearing their disctinctive red berets, forced their way into the main dining hall, pushing campus control security guards out of the way and demanded food from Wits Student Liaison Officer, Bontle Mogapi.
The students were adamant that if their demands were not met, they were going to jump into Royal Mnandi and serve hungry students themselves. “We are going to relieve these mothers and fathers, who are paid peanuts of their work, we are going to serve students on their behalf,” said Mbhele.
Vuyani Pambo, chairperson of Wits EFF, told Wits Vuvuzela that they requested at least 20 meals to feed needy students for the night and the dining hall management refused. Wits EFF then took it upon themselves to provide the students with food.
Tebogo Mabeso of the Wits EFF told Wits Vuvuzela that there are students who book meals at the dining hall but end up not collecting them. These meals still get billed whether or not they are collected. The Wits EFF say these meals must be given to needy students.
“What you see here is a demonstration of black rage,” said Pambo. The Wits EFF are calling for all students in their respective faculties to reflect critically and make radical strides towards giving the university a “black face”.
According to the Wits Deputy Director of Retail and Catering, Nicholas Matthes the Wits EFF members did not follow the correct procedure in dealing with this matter. “Students need to approach the Dean of students,” he said.
Mogapi refused to speak to Wits Vuvuzela and said she did not understand what the Wits EFF was demanding.
SIXTEEN of the 17 chefs dismissed by Royal Mnandi Food Service Solutions for “gross insubordination” earlier this year have not given up their fight to be reinstated. But they are struggling to survive without a salary.
The Hospitality, Industrial, Catering, Retail and Allied Workers Union (Hicrawu) took the case to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) last month.
National organiser for Hicrawu, Martin Modise, said the matter was heard by the CCMA on August 27 but had to be postponed to October 8 because there were many witnesses who still needed to appear.
Modise said he hoped for a positive outcome. “The first prize for us is to have the people get back to work.”
One of the 17, Michael Mali, is working in the main dining hall again. Modise said Mali’s case was separate from the other chefs, who were fired after refusing to be reassigned to different dining halls.
Mali said he was dismissed after telling his manager he could not go into the cold room because his tonsils were sore. He said the manager took this for insubordination. But Hicrawu negotiated with Royal Mnandi on his behalf and he was reinstated.
Mali said he was pleased to be back at work but was unhappy he had not received any back pay.
Modise said “When you negotiate you concede something and you get something,” adding that Mali got his job back but not the lost income.
Meanwhile, the other 16 former chefs are facing serious financial problems since losing their jobs.
Searching for answers
Christine Mkize, one of the dismissed chefs, described her difficulties in a telephone interview with Wits Vuvuzela
“I’m struggling. I’m struggling. I can’t afford to do anything. My children are at school. I have two kids and I am also looking after my late sister’s kids and my granddaughter. I don’t have money for transport for my son who is at college in Dobsonville. And my son in grade 10, I can’t give him money for lunch. Sometimes they give him lunch at school, but he is allergic to some of the things, like fish and spinach, so he can’t eat.
“My husband has got prostate cancer. He goes in and out of hospital at Helen Joseph and he can’t work full time at the taxi rank. He’s not a taxi owner. He’s a driver. My sister gives me some money. She is a domestic worker. She is HIV positive and can’t afford to give me a lot. She gives me R200. My mother-in-law also gives me a little money so maybe we can eat. I can’t pay my rent.
“I am not sitting doing nothing. When I see posters I send my CV. I struggled to get money to go and look for a job, domestic jobs, catering jobs. They looked at my CV and said they would phone me, but they never phoned me. I am selling sweets, peanuts and tomatoes. I don’t have much stock because I don’t have money. I sometimes get R40 a day. At month-end I get R80 a day, but it’s only for three days.
“I am struggling. I am not lying. Please, please, if you need someone to clean your house, don’t hesitate to call me, please.
“Even my colleagues are struggling. One came to me crying the other day. Her mother was sick. They get some piece jobs, washing two days or one day. But they are single parents and can’t afford to do anything for their kids. If maybe they had husbands who could help them.
“I am suffering a lot. I don’t want to lie to anybody and say I am ok. The doctor says I have high blood pressure and maybe it’s because of stress.
“I ask myself why, why. (She starts to cry). If maybe I was doing something wrong at my workplace I can say yes, but now I’m struggling to find answers. I worked so hard for the company, every day. (She breaks down). I’m sorry, I didn’t want to cry. I cry every day asking God to please help us. Not only me, all of us.
“We are going back to the CCMA on 8 October. Maybe God will answer.”