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ELECTRICIANS employed at Wits by MJL Electrical have asked students to join them in solidarity, to pressure Wits management to assist them in finding a solution to problems with their working conditions.
Earlier this year workers complained to the Wits Legal Office that they were poorly paid and accused MJL Electrical owner George Cresswold of deducting money from their salaries for the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and pensions but not paying into those funds.
The workers had tried to get help from their union, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) without success.
“Numsa does not give us enough support and that is why we need students to help us, we are just electricians, we do not know the law and that makes it easy for Wits to take advantage of us,” said one of the workers, Richard Ndebele.
The workers have not been given assignments since March, nor have they received a letter that they no longer have jobs. “We cannot even claim from UIF because our employer was not paying,” said Ndebele.
MJL Electrical is a contractor of Wits University and its employees are outsourced workers and not directly employed by the university.
Ndebele said the university promised to work together with the electricians to find a solution, but have not taken any legal actions against Cresswold. “When we demanded answers from George, the uni
versity promised that they will make sure our jobs are safe, now they say this issue does not concern them.”
In their recent letter to Wits community, MJL Electrical workers accuse Wits of failing to insist on fair and legal labour practices by the contractors they hire, “What criteria are you using to hire contractors at Wits? We are questioning because they are not complying with labour laws, they are not paying tax, pension fund and UIF.”
Last month, during the Town Hall meeting, MJL Electrical workers walked into the auditorium and stood at the front of the stage for the duration of the meeting, to protest their plight.
Vice Chancellor Adam Habib said the issue of the MJL workers was not the university’s responsibility, as any attempt to guarantee the jobs of employees of outsourced service providers would set a precedent for workers from other service providers.
by Ray Mahlaka, Emelia Motsai and Nolwazi Mjwara
Students, staff and workers gathered at the Wits Great Hall to question vice chancellor Prof Adam Habib on university related issues. The gathering was part of the university’s first ever town hall meeting.
The session was moderated by president of the Wits Debating Union, Mighti Jamie.