Unisa's independent contractors claimed they have not been paid for a year
DURBAN - Social worker Jeevie Pillay, is taking Unisa to task over unpaid invoices dating back to 2015. Pillay , who is married to former eThekwini Speaker Logie Naidoo, is an independent contractor with the university and has been providing services since 2009. She facilitates workshops, acts as a mentor to supervisors, and also marks online assignments.
“As social workers we are supposed to advocate on behalf of the voiceless and the vulnerable but now we need to advocate for ourselves," she said. “I have not been paid at all for the year and there are about 35 others who are experiencing the same problems. My outstanding claims come close to R60 000 and there is another independent contractor who is owed almost R190 000.”
Pillay said she started experiencing non payment issues when the institution upgraded their payment system. Payment turnaround times became longer and eventually contractors ended up not receiving any remuneration.
“In the time that you sent a claim and you expect payment, you are already doing more work and sending other claims. Then you get a paid but you don't know exactly what it’s for,” she said. I haven’t had a salary advice since 2014, and I have written about 10 emails requesting them so that I could identify the work that was paid for, but I have not received any pay slips since.”
She added that there had been instances where the finance section within the social work department had not processed claims because of missing documents. But the department's lack of communication made it difficult for contractors to assist the payment process.
Pillay said they had also written to the vice chancellor who referred them back to the department. She said the group of unpaid independent contractors had also held a meeting with the chairman of the department, who was not keen on the idea of a collective meeting. Instead, he suggested individual meetings. She said the one-on-one meetings were not agreed to because their issues of non payment and short payment was a collective one.
“I have been a social worker for 31 years. I am passionate about the profession and student development. Although this had happened to me, I still feel the need to enhance the profession by getting involved in student development, and sharing my experience with students.”
Edgar Rathelele, Unisa's spokesperson said they would investigate the matter and treat it with the urgency it deserved.
“Thank you for bringing the matter of contract worker, Jeevanthri Pillay, not being paid to our attention. Unisa honours its agreements with all employees including independent contractors. Although Mrs Pillay alleges that it is a nation-wide occurrence, Unisa has not been made aware of this and would like to encourage anyone with similar experience to contact the university.”