UKZN contract employees protest

2016-02-24 06:00
Temporary workers strike outside the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Pietermaritzburg campus yesterday. PHOTO: Ian Carbutt

Temporary workers strike outside the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Pietermaritzburg campus yesterday. PHOTO: Ian Carbutt

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CONTRACT workers at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) started a protest with the first mass action demonstration at the university for 2016.

The protesters are employees of private companies contracted by the university to perform tasks in garden services, cleaning and security.

According to UKZN spokesperson, Lesiba Seshoka, the university received a “memorandum of demands on in-sourcing of all general workers at UKZN” from the South African Liberated Public Sector Workers’ Union.

A group of about 100 protesters peacefully demonstrated on Pietermaritzburg’s main campus, while being monitored by the university’s risk management services.

Seshoka said there were no reports of violence or disruption to the academic programme across all campuses.

A protester, who would not be named for fear of victimisation, said on Thursday the workers were “tired of suffering” and it was time the community heard their complaints.

“This matter has been going on since before the Fees Must Fall protests,” he said.

“We have been trying to negotiate with UKZN, but they have mostly been silent on the matter. It’s just not fair to pay someone R1 200 a month and expect them to look after their families and pay for transport every day with that amount.”

He said most of the workers were older than 40 and were the bread winners, who were trying to put their children through school while travelling every day from Imbali to the campus.

“We will be mobilising students, security and permanent staff to join the strike. Everyone must be made aware of the workers suffering,” he said.

At the end of last year the university management established a task team comprising of students, human resources and labour representatives to investigate the in-sourcing and outsourcing of services on its five campuses.

“The university is also cognisant of the general consensus within the higher education sphere which appears to have widespread support for moving away from outsourcing,” Seshoka said.

“The work of the task team is under way and it is expected that a report with proposals will be submitted to executive management shortly.”

The protest started last Thursday at 7am when about 60 staff gathered at the students’ union building, singing and chanting.

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