Outsourced workers from Tshwane University of Technology and Unisa have vowed to shut down the universities if outsourced workers were not insourced. File picture: Phill Magakoe/Independent Media
Pretoria – Some of the universities in the city are facing uncertain times yet again – this time from outsourced workers, who have reignited the struggle that started back in 2015.

The workers have vowed to shut down Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) campuses and Unisa if outsourced workers were not insourced.

However, Unisa on Monday managed to obtain an interdict against security guards who had embarked on strike action.

The latest developments come as all 18 universities in the country are still reeling from the R460 million in damage to property incurred during the #FeesMustFall protests over the past year.

Universities in the capital have been plagued by #OutsourcingMustFall unrest for two years.

At TUT, security workers embarked on a peaceful protest on Friday at the main campus in Pretoria West demanding that management honoured agreements made during previous protests.

Japhta Mokoena, of the General Industries Workers Union of South Africa, said they were upset that agreements made following the #OutsourcingMustFall protests in February last year had not been fulfilled by the university.

Mokoena said the peaceful protest was a reminder to the university to honour its end of the agreement and insource all outsourced workers.

“We have given them until April 30 to come back to us with a response. Workers’ contracts end on June 30 and there must be a way forward before then."

“Workers earn between R2 000 and R2 500 and we think that demanding a R5 000 salary is not too much to ask from the university considering the crucial service they provide for students and staff on campuses.”

TUT spokesperson Willa de Ruyter said the university signed an agreement that was based on affordability and sustainability, and subject to approval by the council.

De Ruyter said it was agreed that insourcing be implemented until 2019 as contracts between the university and the service providers expired.

To date, the university insourced 290 cleaning workers and plans were already in place for 197 landscaping workers to be absorbed next month, she said. And next year, TUT would insource workers who clean student residences.

“On security, the university council decided that this service would not be insourced, based on financial considerations. More work is being done to decide on a modality of insourcing of the catering service,” said De Ruyter.

But Mokoena warned: “Should the university opt not to insource the 800 security workers, then our members will shut down campuses.”

At Unisa, management turned to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, fearing that threats by security guards who missed out on permanent jobs at Unisa would jeopardise the printing of exam papers.

The workers said the university permanently employed some of the outsourced security guards.

Those who lost out on jobs have since been intimidating the permanently employed security guards, students and staff.

They have mobilised into groups, especially at the main and Sunnyside campuses, and disrupting activities, the court heard. But even more worrisome to Unisa is the fact that they caused all the security personnel to desert their posts.

Last Friday, security booms to the main campus were lifted and all posts unmanned.

Acting vice-principal at Unisa Liana Griesel said apart from the fact that security services were vital to safeguard everyone, she was also worried about the printing and packaging of exam papers, which was done from the main campus.

“Unisa has, over the years, established a world-class secure examination paper printing centre. This is critical as the integrity of the examinations is central to the reputation and credibility of the university,” Griesel stated in court papers.

She called on the court to urgently interdict people from embarking on outsourcing protests at all Unisa campuses.

At the end of last year, Unisa set up a task team to investigate the issue of insourcing.

This was following unhappiness that it had outsourced services such as security, gardening, catering and waste removal.

Griesel said since 2015 operations at Unisa were disrupted by protest action relating to outsourcing. Protesters vandalised and trashed the campuses in a bid to make the university ungovernable.

The protests were ongoing, but it flared up at the end of March with the protesters now focusing on the main campus.

They last week trashed the dispatch department, which Griesel said was a critical area as it was responsible for the production and distribution of study material for students.

They removed security officers posted there. Griesel said the number of protesters grew to about 500 by last week.

They patrolled the outside of the main campus all night long to ensure that the employed security guards were not on their posts.

The main gripe was that only a number of security guards could be insourced, leaving many without jobs. This group threatened to disrupt all security services at Unisa, leaving the university totally without security.

“At this point, there is practically no physical security over these printing and storage facilities If this situation persists, the integrity of the examination papers will be compromised, along with Unisa’s standards of education and its reputation,” Griesel said. Judge Bill Prinsloo prohibited all outsourcing-related protests at Unisa.

No incidents were reported at the University of Pretoria, which was hit by outsourcing protest in the past, and Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University.

Pretoria News