Insourcing victory for UCT workers, students

By Carlo Petersen Time of article published Jun 23, 2016

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Carlo Petersen

ON JULY 1, Mariam Motlhanke will join close to 1 000 workers in becoming full-time employees at UCT.

In what has been hailed as “a massive victory” for workers and their allies, the students at the university, up to 7 000 dependants of UCT workers like Motlhanke stand to benefit from an insourcing agreement between the university and their union.

Motlhanke had waited 20 years to become part of “the UCT family” and said she had given up on her dreams.

Yesterday, the 55-year-old canteen worker expressed her elation after UCT vice-chancellor Max Price announced that a historic agreement between UCT management and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) Joint Stewards Council will come into effect next month.

“It’s so good to know I’ll be part of the UCT family,” Motlhanke said.

“At last I will have access to the many benefits I know we deserve, such as medical aid and housing – and, most of all, education subsidies for my three children.”

Motlhanke, employed in one of the canteens at the university, said she was grateful that students had supported the workers to bring down the “exploitative” system of outsourcing.

Last year, Nehawu forged an alliance between workers and students which eventually forced the university’s hand to change its outsourcing policy.

Nehawu UCT joint shop steward Mzomhle Bisa said it had taken workers a decade of struggle to bring outsourcing to an end. But, under the pressure of the worker-student alliance, UCT had buckled.

Bisa said class-three workers like cleaners and gardeners who had previously been earning just over R3 000 a month will now be coming home with more than R7 500 a month.

“The increase in salary and the benefits like medical aid and opportunities for family members to study at the university for free will no doubt please the workers. It is a massive victory, but without the students’ help none of this would have happened. We were struggling with the university for years,” he said.

Bisa referred to students who face disciplinary action at UCT due to their involvement in “unlawful protest action”, saying workers would show them support.

“They were there for us, so we must be there for them,” Bisa said.

He also mentioned the Cape Times’ coverage of the workers’ plight, saying the newspaper had given the workers a platform.

“One cannot deny that the Cape Times had an influence in getting our stories out there and that put even more pressure on UCT management,” he said.

Rhodes Must Fall member Mohammed Jameel Abdulla said it was “definitely a victory” for the student-worker alliance.

“We are happy the workers and their families will benefit from insourcing. Together we are a powerful force,” he said.

The employees being insourced will be contracted to UCT on a full-time basis by TurfWorks, G4S, Sibanye, Metro Cleaning Services, Supercare and C3 Food Services. Staff from C3 Food Services will be insourced when their contract ends in 2019.

Price said the university has been working hard to ensure that operational processes are in place for a smooth transition.

“To facilitate an insourcing project of this complexity and magnitude, we have decided to keep the current model of operation intact. Greater efficiencies will be introduced on a gradual basis after July 1.”

He said a question often asked about insourcing relates to its cost to UCT and the impact on the austerity measures in progress.

“There is no doubt that the insourcing project has added to the university’s challenge of financial sustainability.

“We have budgeted for a once-off capital expenditure of R40 million from our reserves and an annual recurrent operational cost of approximately R68m… We are now approximately R250m short annually,” Price said.

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