Wits nightshift isn’t mahala

By Pheladi Sethusa and Ray Mahlaka

WITS Campus Control security guards allege they are owed about R40 000 each in their night shift allowance payment.Three Campus Control security complained to Wits Vuvuzela that they had not received increases for night shift allowances since 2002, despite working seven days a week for 12 hours a day. This amounts to about R40 000 per guard.

[pullquote align=”right”]“There is no indication that the night shift allowance increase will materialise”[/pullquote]

The security guards want a night shift increase of R400-500 per month, to their current monthly salary which they say ranges between R4000- R5 000. The security guards said they only received R190 per month for night shift allowance.

“There is no indication that the night shift allowance increase will materialise. Every time we ask the head of security, they say they cannot comment. The money for the night shift allowance is too low,” a security guard said.

Payment received

At a meeting last week Prof Tawana Kupe, deputy vice chancellor of Finance and Operations, showed Wits Vuvuzela evidence of the payment of nightshift allowances via workers’ payslips. He said all Campus Control workers were accounted for.

However, unionist Billy Cebekhulu, the treasurer of Nehawu said a report was commissioned by Wits management to look into night shift increases. While the report is done the issue is that the findings are not yet public .

Cebekhulu said: “We were told the person has been hired [to look into night shift remuneration] and there will be a report. We have not seen it and we are still awaiting a report. The night shift issue is a concern to us.”

We want our money

A third security guard said they are owed at least R40 000 in night shift allowance increases per person from 2002. He said they want the money before December.

[pullquote]“I’m not saying there isn’t a problem, I want to know what their problem is”[/pullquote] Nehawu said that in 2009 it took the university to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to resolve night shift disputes at the institution.

However, Kupe said during his eight month tenure as DVC, he was not aware of a CCMA case as there might have been a settlement.

Kupe said perhaps the nightshift allowances are not increased like salaries, “not everything is subject to an increase,” he added.

FILE PHOTO: A Wits security guard is pictured on duty earlier this year. Photo: Mfuneko Toyana
FILE PHOTO: A Wits security guard is pictured on duty earlier this year. Photo: Mfuneko Toyana

“I’m not saying there isn’t a problem, I want to know what their problem is,” said Kupe.

Cebekhulu said the problem with the nightshift allowances was that before 2009, the allowances were being taken off their basic salaries at cost to company. Cost to company is the amount a company pays employees before any deductions, meaning that any benefits would be charged off of one’s salary.

“We have been paid with our own money,” said a distraught Cebekhulu.

In 2009 it was agreed that a R150 increase on the nightshift allowances would be granted, which meant that the R150 would be a separate entity, that wasn’t at cost to company.

The union and workers want to be remunerated for the years in which the nightshift allowance was taken off their salaries.

Hide and seek

Chairperson of Nehawu Wits Richard Sadiki said there was “a hide and seek on management’s side” in not addressing night shift concerns.

One disgruntled guard said: “We work hard and we can’t afford to take care our family (sic). We are being ripped off.  We should be paid more and we guard the university 24 hours, but there is no thanks from the university. We are doing our level best to make students safe, but the employer is not grateful.”

Security guards also complain of a lack of security guards on West campus.

According to a security guard, there are only three guards at West campus, from the nine hired in 1993.

Kupe said that having more staff on campus would not help to prevent crime on campus, “we don’t need more guards”. He felt we needed students to behave morally and justly towards each other, he felt.

[pullquote align=”right”]”We should be paid more and we guard the university 24 hours, but there is no thanks from the university”[/pullquote]

Rob Kemp, Director of Campus Control denied allegations that nightshift staff were not paid their allowance. “The allowance has not fallen away and still active. The allowance is a requirement in terms of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act,” he said.


Unions reject salary increase

Staff unions at Wits have declared a dispute with management after negotiations faltered last week.

Unions and management have been in negotiations since management announced inflation-linked salary increases last month.

Management announced a 7.25% increase across the board for academic staff (Grades 5-9), a 6.5% increase for support staff (Grades 5-17) and a 6.5% “adjustment to Campus Control allowances”.

Prof Patrick FitzGerald, deputy vice chancellor of finance and operations, said the negotiations were intended to reach a settlement but some unions took positions which made it “very difficult”.

Adele Underhay, president of the Administration, Library and Technical Staff Association (ALTSA), said unions rejected the offer based on their members’ mandate.

“I think we all realise that it doesn’t help that we push management and they can’t afford to give us an increase,” said Underhay.

Underhay said although the increases are in line with the inflation rate, predictions for inflation are much higher and staff, especially in the lower grades, complained about the increasing cost of living.

“What could happen in regard to the inflation rate in the future is obviously out of our hands,” said Fitzgerald.

Industrial action as last resort

The unions will approach the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and appear before a commissioner who will hear both sides and could grant them a certificate for industrial action.

“It’s bad for everyone but if that’s what it’s going to take, our members have said that that’s what they’ll do,” said Underhay.

The unions proposed that non-union members should not receive any further increase that is negotiated as they would benefit unfairly.

Together, the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) and ALTSA represent 48% of around 2300 support staff. The Academic Staff Association of Wits University (ASAWU) represents at least 50% of staff.

Last year, management rejected ASAWU’s proposed salary increase, which would have cost the university around R60m to implement.

Published in Wits Vuvuzela 14th edition, 18th May 2012

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