Police keep watch as UWC workers protest outsourcing

2016-02-22 18:53
(Picture: Michael Helu)

(Picture: Michael Helu)

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Cape Town - A bin was set alight and a library had to be evacuated at the University of the Western Cape on Monday as cleaning and gardening staff protested against outsourcing and for a minimum wage of R10 000, the institution said.

About 100 workers took part in the action.

Michael Helu of the General Industries Workers Union of SA said workers were paid R2 700 per month by outsourced companies and needed more to survive.

And while permanent employees of the outsourced companies working at the university also received an additional R2 000 from UWC, this did not extend to those on tempory contracts, he said.

The workers also wanted to enjoy the same benefits as university staff, Helu insisted.

"We will continue to protest until we receive a positive response to our demands," he said.

"Nothing must be discussed about the workers without the workers."

Helu said attempts to engage the university management to have their demands met had been fruitless.

According to a statement by the UWC executive management, the rector met with a delegation of outsourced cleaners and gardeners on Monday morning.

"They repeated their demands for immediate insourcing and a minimum wage of R10 000 per person per month. This followed our formal response to their demand which they presented last week.

"We reiterated our position that our precarious financial situation does not put us in a position to afford insourcing at a minimum wage of R10 000 per month," the executive said.

Study benefit

The university also gives a study benefit to outsourced workers and that is "the best we can do at the moment, without compromising the future sustainability of the university".

"However, we have committed to look into the position of temporary cleaning and garden workers who have not received the additional R 2000 subsidy and the study benefit."

After the meeting, the group gathered peacefully in front of the Administration Building, where they sang and threw around rubbish from the bins, management said.

"The protesting group then proceeded to the rest of the campus and we have confirmed reports of classes being affected. They later attempted to occupy the library and set alight a waste-paper bin in the basement of the library.

"As a result of smoke from the basement which entered the main library through the extractors, staff and students evacuated the library."

Security was deployed "as a precaution to protect the adjacent Robben Island-Mayibuye Archive".

Police were also on campus to monitor the protest.

"As much as we empathise with the plight of the outsourced workers, we unfortunately also have an obligation to protect the rights of all staff and students, and to ensure the integrity of the academic programme," the executive said. 

"We have appealed to the service companies to engage their staff to ensure that they refrain from disrupting the academic activities of the university and to assist in managing the situation."

Read more on:    uwc  |  cape town  |  protests

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