UKZN students warn of more protests over cleaning staff

There was a standoff between police and students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal on Monday. Photo: Supplied

There was a standoff between police and students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal on Monday. Photo: Supplied

Published Jun 14, 2022


Durban — The EFF in the University of KwaZulu-Natal said it would not rest until the management reinstated 300 suspended cleaning staff.

The students, led by the party’s student command leadership, clashed with police and university guards on Monday morning after they barricaded entrances to the Howard and Westville campuses demanding the reinstatement of the suspended staff.

Student Command leader Nsiki Mbanjwa said as the students from the party that is against the exploitation of poor people they could not sit back and watch as the management abused the staff, hence they decided to intervene.

She said the students were angered by the suspension of the staff and were directly affected by the management action since the suspended people help and look after them in the residences.

She said the staff were suspended after submitting their memorandum peacefully requesting the management to look into their grievances.

In a long list of grievances in the memorandum which was seen by the Daily News, workers are demanding that a pay grade system be defined by the level of responsibilities performed within the job description of the position, the authority exercised by the position, and the length of time the employee has performed the job.

Workers also demanded that all employees who were insourced must be absorbed into the grades which existed within each department that were recognised by the university and receive similar pay structures and grades that will allow for upward movement in salary.

“We demand the employer to stop discriminating against insourced employees on pay/remuneration policies which are evident in 2018 which contain clauses only applicable to insourced employees. We demand equal pay for work of equal value by an employer to lift staff morale and eliminate unfair discrimination,” said workers in the memorandum.

Mbanjwa said workers were also not happy with the current medical aid plan from Discovery health care which was offered without consultation to insourced staff members, saying the scheme had proven to be the biggest failure and “not reliable in any shape or form”.

She called it the “biggest scam” being run by the management adding that workers demanded an affordable medical aid plan that would cover health care costs such as hospitalisation, treatment and medication.

One of the suspended workers said their medical aid limited them to only two doctors that they can use. They claimed that when they were sick, they were not allowed to use other facilities.

Another complaint raised by workers was the shortage of staff as workers were being overstretched to cover for those who have retired or died.

Workers said the management had failed to address this in numerous instances but instead continued piling on the workload, which decreased the quality of work and put an extreme amount of pressure on employees, causing them to be “overwhelmed” with this extra work.

Mbanjwa said although they had to temporarily halt the protest on Monday to rush two students who were shot by police to hospital, there was no guarantee that there will be no disruptions today (Tuesday), vowing to continue fighting for workers’ grievances.

The university spokesperson Normah Zondo said the management was aware of the protest where students barricaded the roads and damaged two vehicles owned by the university, adding that the situation had since been brought under control.

She said there were no disruptions to the university’s online teaching and learning programme.

“Risk Management Services supported by members of the SAPS and university-appointed private security are monitoring the situation at both campuses to ensure the safety of all staff, students and property. The university management condemns any criminal conduct, which includes the damage to property and threats to staff and students. The university continues to engage with staff through recognised structures that deal with grievances.”

Daily News